NORTH SMITHFIELD – North Smithfield may be due a large payment in back taxes on an electric substation connecting the state’s largest solar farm to National Grid, which reportedly went live last year without following the town’s permitting or inspection process.
Green Development built the substation to connect its 38.4-megawatt solar farm on Iron Mine Hill Road to the larger electric grid. The array went live in December of 2021, but Town Councilor John Beauregard pointed out this week that the town has received no corresponding windfall from the tangible assets, turned over to the power company by Green.
“I haven’t seen any money on our tax rolls,” Beauregard said at the council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 3. “It would have been nice to know that was there during the budget.”
Tax Assessor Jennifer St. George said the substation wasn’t taxed because Green officials never took out a permit to build the substation, which would have triggered notification in the assessment office.
“They’re responsible and they should have notified me,” St. George said.
While the cost to build the substation is not yet known, St. George confirmed that the asset will be taxed for two years at the tangible rate, which was 43.69 per thousand when it went live in 2021, once a consultant can determine its value.
Finance Director Cynthia DeJesus said that it also appears that the project never received an inspection from the fire marshal.
“There’s an array of issues here right now,” DeJesus said, noting that filing for the permit triggers other steps in the process. “There’s a process that goes through the e-permitting system. It would have fell through the cracks.”
While Beauregard stated that the substation could be worth millions, St. George declined to estimate how much might be due. Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski noted that residential building permits are calculated in part by the cost of materials.
“This is why we need the experts to come in,” Zwolenski said. “The disheartening thing is no permit was pulled. so now late permitting fees will be applied.”
Councilors noted that Green Development, owner of the massive solar array, should have notified the town at the start of the process. And the energy company should have paid on the taxable asset.
“That section of land and the substation was deeded over to National Grid,” said St. George.
“We have two culprits,” Hamilton said.
St. George said she has plans to visit the new substation this week with a consultant to begin the assessment process.