1. Forrestall Enterprises, Inc. v. Board of Assessors of the Town of Westborough (2014)
In 2014, a corporation installed a small solar facility on property it owned in order to supply energy through a net metering agreement to other nonadjacent properties belonging to the owner of the corporation.197 The Town of Westborough assessed personal property taxes on the solar equipment for 2012 and 2013, and the corporation sought an abatement. The town’s assessors argued, in reliance upon an interpretation by the DOR, that the solar exemption was applicable only to facilities supplying energy to contiguous properties.198 The ATB, however, rejected the town’s argument and held that, if the owners of the solar facility were providing electricity to other noncontiguous taxable properties they owned, they were entitled to the exemption.199 The decision shows the DOR’s limited role in local property taxation, because the department only provides oversight to local assessors and its guidance is not binding.200
2. KTT, LLC v. Town of Swansea Board of Assessors (2016)
In 2016, a solar farm operator in Swansea filed a tax abatement appeal against the Town of Swansea’s Board of Assessors, which had imposed personal property taxes on the solar farm.201 The solar operator argued that its property was exempt from taxes, although the solar equipment was used in a net metering agreement to generate power for private bank branches not located on the same property.202 The ATB held again that a solar installation is tax-exempt under the solar exemption clause when the installation is “utilized to supply the energy needs of a property that is subject to Massachusetts property tax.”203 In this decision, the ATB extended the tax exemption for solar facilities to installations that supply energy to other entities not under the same ownership. This interpretation also allows a third-party net-metered solar project that allocates net metering credits to a different entity to take advantage of the solar property tax exemption.
3. Quabbin Solar, LLC v. Board of Assessors of the Town of Barre (2017)
In 2017, the ATB made a similar decision in a dispute between the Town of Barre’s Board of Assessors and three solar companies owned and managed by the same individual.204 In this case, the solar companies were selling their net metering credits to a third party (Honey Farms, Inc.) that ran its operations mostly on leased commercial properties.205 Upon tax abatement appeals by the solar companies, the ATB decided that the solar companies qualified for the exemption, reasoning that the language of the clause is not ambiguous and the exemption is allowable for residential, industrial, and commercial properties as long as they are taxable.206
4. PelleVerde Capital, LLC v. W. Bridgewater & Salvage Corp. of of America v. Framingham
In these two decisions from 2020, the ATB determined, as would naturally follow from its reasoning in the earlier cases, that solar facilities that supply electricity to nontaxable properties (here, municipal buildings) are taxable.207