ECONOMIC IMPACT REPORT
Firefly Solar is a utility-scale solar project being developed by Vesper Energy (formerly Lendlease Energy Development), a renewable energy company that partners with local landowners to develop and operate solar and energy storage projects across the country. The Vesper Energy team has successfully commercialized more than 680 MW of renewable energy projects in the United States. Firefly Solar is a planned 200 megawatt (MW) solar project to be located in North Beaver Township that would generate positive economic and employment impacts for the region. It is projected that Firefly Solar will generate $51.6 million during the construction phase for Lawrence County, $8.7 million annually during operations, and $1.6 million in state and local taxes due to operations each year.
In January 2022, Vesper Energy engaged Parker Philips Inc. to measure the projected economic impact of its proposed solar project – Firefly Solar. Parker Philips is a nationally recognized consulting firm with headquarters in Erie, Pennsylvania, with offices in Philadelphia and Ohio. Parker Philips has completed more than 600 economic impact analysis projects across the U.S. and globally. The goal of this analysis is to provide a complete assessment of the estimated total economic, employment, and state and local tax impact of the project on Lawrence County. The primary tool used in the performance of this study is the I-O model and dataset, which is the leading economic modeling application in the U.S., developed by IMPLAN Group LLC. Please find more information about the I-O model in Appendix B: Methodology. Project-specific data including projected operational and capital expenditures used in this study was obtained from Vesper Energy. Additional information on the methodology and assumptions used to complete this study can be found in Appendix B.
PROJECTED IMPACTS ON LAWRENCE COUNTY ECONOMY
METHODOLOGY & KEY ASSUMPTIONS
An economic impact analysis quantifies the effect of an event on the economy in a specified geography. An economic impact analysis is commonly conducted when there is public interest in the potential impacts of a proposed change of policy, to demonstrate the value of a project, or to show the contribution of an existing organization in the market. This economic impact analysis shows the estimated economic, employment, and local and state tax impact of the proposed Firefly Solar project in Lawrence County and North Beaver Township.
The combination of indirect and induced impact is commonly referred to as the multiplier effect. Quantifying the economic impacts of Firefly Solar is essential to understanding the potential benefits that the project could have on the local economy. Solar power development, like other commercial development projects, can expand the local economy through both direct and indirect means. Income generated from direct employment during the construction and operation phases of the solar project is subsequently used to purchase local goods and services, creating a ripple effect throughout Lawrence County.
PROJECTED IMPACTS ON LAWRENCE COUNTY ECONOMY
PROJECTED CONSTRUCTION IMPACTS
Based upon IMPLAN model calculations, it is anticipated that over the approximately 18-month construction period, the project will support 315 jobs and generate $51.6 million in economic impact. The project will support $19.8 million in labor income. This assumes that only 15% of the construction project budget will be spent in Lawrence County. Local employment will primarily benefit those in the construction trades, including equipment operators, truck drivers, laborers, and electricians.
PROJECTED IMPACT OF LANDOWNER PAYMENTS
Landowner payments to private citizens who choose to sign on to participate in Firefly Solar are important to showcase within this economic impact study because they impact the household spending power of Lawrence County residents. In exchange for allowing the siting of solar panels, access roads, and/or other project components on their land, landowners will be compensated with construction payments, as well as annual operational payments. The money from these payments, like the other expenditures associated with Firefly Solar, will be spent in the local economy thereby generating additional impact on the community as a whole as a result of their household spending.
The landowner payment analysis is a household spending impact. The impact of increased household spending will generate nearly $1.1 million in economic impact for a 200 MW project, support and sustain 7 jobs, and contribute $110,470 in state and local taxes during construction. Over 40 years, landowners will generate $26.7 million in economic output, support and sustain 186 jobs and contribute $2.5 million in state and local taxes.
PROJECTED OPERATIONAL IMPACTS
Based upon IMPLAN model calculations, it is anticipated that Firefly Solar will generate $8.7 million in the Lawrence County economy annually, support and sustain 9 total jobs, and support $1.3 million in labor income . These impacts will repeat each year in Lawrence County.
PROJECTED STATE AND LOCAL TAX IMPACT
State and local tax impacts generated based on operations will total $1.6 million annually, inclusive of direct, indirect, and induced impacts. Of this $1.6 million, $748,333 will be generated in local taxes only. Taxes at the local level include sales tax and property tax. IMPLAN calculates taxes based upon actual taxes paid in a data year rather than tax rates. Calculations in this analysis are based upon the most recent tax year of 2020. Using this data, it is estimated that Firefly Solar would be expected to generate $267,351 in direct property taxes annually.
In Pennsylvania, property taxes are administered at the county level. In every county, the sum of local tax rates (school taxes, municipal taxes, and county taxes) is applied to the assessed value of each property. The median property tax in Lawrence County is $1,436 per year for a home worth the median value of $92,600. On average, the County collects 1.55% of a property's assessed fair market value as property tax. On average, residents of the County pay 2.94% in their annual income in property tax. Lawrence County is ranked 636th of the 3143 counties for property taxes as a percentage of median income. In Lawrence County, the average 2022 millage rate is 15.672 for school taxes (1.57% of assessed property value) and 0.4646 for fire (0.05%) of assessed property value. In North Beaver Township, the average 2022 millage rate is 14.37 for school taxes (1.44% of assessed property value) and .33 for fire (.03%) of assessed property value.