The United States Solar Radiation Test Area (USSTA) was established in 1954 to test and evaluate photovoltaic (PV) materials and devices used in space flight. The USSTA, located in Niskayuna, New York, operates as a self-sustaining business unit within the General Motors (GM) Company. The business unit designs, manufactures, and monitors PV systems for the aerospace and automotive industries. Before the establishment of the USSTA, PV technology was mainly used in military aircraft.
Since its inception, the USSTA has expanded its business to include the design and manufacturing of solar farm technologies for large-scale commercial applications. One of its first major contracts consisted of building a solar-powered plant for the city of Lancaster in central New York. The plant was designed to replace the city’s power source, which was generated by means of a steam engine. The project was completed in 2012 and provided the city with energy 24 hours a day. Today, the city of Lancaster no longer depends on power from the gas-fired plant as it does now on solar energy.
While the USSTA originally designed the Lancaster solar plant to provide energy for the city, it has since designed and constructed multiple solar farms across the country. Some of these facilities continue to operate, while others have closed down due to high maintenance costs and low sales volumes.
The majority of these solar farms generate electricity for distribution through the public grid. However, some of the larger solar projects have been built to provide power directly to consumers, with the government subsidizing this initiative via tax credits and other revenue-generating mechanisms. The most recent project of this type is BrightSource Energy’s $150 million per-project solar farm, which was constructed and is operated in the state of California. The 300-megawatt solar farm was built in Pacheco, California and went live in 2017.
Solar Energy Property Tax Exemption
As a business based in New York State, one of the primary concerns for the USSTA is property tax assessment. To ensure that the value of their real estate stays the same, the owners of commercial and residential properties can apply for property tax exemption. Further details regarding the application process can be found on the USSTA’s website. Additionally, many states, including New York, offer solar energy property tax exemption.
Taxing Foreign Investment
Another key concern for the USSTA is the taxation of foreign investment. New York state and local government entities can and do tax all property transactions, including those involving foreign nationals. However, the USSTA has tax-exempt status by federal statute, so this concern does not apply to them.
The Pros And Cons Of Solar Energy
While the idea of a solar farm provides many benefits to consumers, its practical application relies heavily on familiar faces. Namely, the USSTA designs, manufactures, and installs solar farm technologies for GM, as well as other large corporations, due to their experience in doing so. Due to its specialized nature and need for skilled personnel, the USSTA is probably not the best option for a beginner. However, if you’re looking for an established brand name that can be relied upon, then the USSTA is a good choice.