South Carolina should be leading the nation when it comes to harvesting the sun’s awesome energy. Solar power is as ready made for this sun-lashed southern idyll as peaches and cream.
The Palmetto state isn’t there yet, though. In fact, South Carolina is barely out of the starting blocks, when it comes to putting panels on roofs—it was only in 2014 that homeowners were even allowed by law to install them! But solar power is coming on in leaps and bounds here now.
And there’s a real bounty of tax breaks, performance payments, and rebates ripening in the South Carolina sun. That sweet mix of sunshine and incentives make South Carolina one of the most profitable places in the States to go solar.
You’ll just need a little savvy to discover the lowest-hanging fruit from the solar tree.
Not that it’s all plain sailing in the “Tastier Peach State”.
Different utilities offer all manner of different incentives and schemes. Some aren’t even playing the solar game at, having sunk so much money into expensive nuclear power they can’t afford customers making their own clean energy (we’re looking at you Santee Cooper!).
What is simple about South Carolina’s solar scene is the thing that makes it all possible—the sun.
And the cost of going solar in the State can be surprisingly small, with the right incentives. Let’s take a look at what sort of return you can expect for your investment in planet-saving solar power.
South Carolina Solar Power: Check your Savings, Costs, Tax Breaks, Incentives and Rebates
There’s a whole host of help for switching homeowners on to the sun. But they depend on where you live, and on which utility is powering your home. So let’s start out simple, looking at the return on investment that all South Carolinian's can look forward to.
Return on Investment for Residential Solar Power in South Carolina
The return on investment for solar power is an important number for those considering whether solar PV is for them. That’s because putting a solar system on your roof isn’t just about slowing global warming, cleaning our air, boosting high-tech jobs, or gaining energy independence.
It’s also an investment that can make you some serious money.
And you can see how good an investment it is by looking at the Internal Rate of Return (IRR) of solar and comparing it to stocks and shares. The fact is that solar in SC comes out pretty well.
We calculate that the IRR for those buying 5 kW solar panels as almost 15% across 25 years. That’s good. Very good. In fact, it’s much better than typical stock returns. Sweet as a peach pie!
There are plenty of other numbers on the plus side too. Let’s work through them with an example of a mid-sized system on a roof in sunny Columbia.
Buying a 5KW Solar System—a South Carolina case study
Costs for installing solar PV panels have come down fast recently. Where once you might have been looking at $20,000 for a 5kW solar system, today it’s nearer$15,000.
1. Well, in Columbia you’ll gain 20 kWh daily of clean, green electricity, from day one. 2. That adds up to 7,120 kWh of free power that you’ll have generated yourself in 1 year. 3. With average South Carolinia using 13,800 kWh, you’ll see your utility bill cut in half!
1. Well, in Columbia you’ll gain 20 kWh daily of clean, green electricity, from day one.
2. That adds up to 7,120 kWh of free power that you’ll have generated yourself in 1 year.
3. With average South Carolinia using 13,800 kWh, you’ll see your utility bill cut in half!
Great for your bank balance, good for South Carolina’s air quality, and pretty cool for our planet.
“But what about that $15,000 outlay?” What $15,000 outlay, we say.
1. Start with your $15,000 sticker price, before tax.
2. Now,South Carolina has 6% sale tax, bumping it up to $15,900.
3. But the state gives you a 25% tax credit, up to $3,500. Snip that bill down to $12,400
4. Then there’s the30% federal Income Tax Credit (ITC). Chop that bill down to $9,300.
5. And your first year will also see $1,200 savings lopped from your utility bill.
6. So you’ll only have paid out a net $8,100 in those first 12 months!
And those savings will keep on streaming in, year in, year out:
1. Over our 25-year time frame, if your utility bill never rose once, you’d save $30,600.
2. But historically U.S. rates have risen by 3% a year.
3. Now your savings will leap, to just under $42,000!
4. At the same time your CO2 emissions will crash—down by nearly 4 tons of carbon
5. That’s the same as you going out and planting 75 palmetto trees every year!
You’ll have to admit that these numbers from installing solar are looking pretty swell for our average Colombian.
For a calculation that better fits your personal situation please vist our solar panal calculator.
South Carolina Solar Power Incentives, Tax Breaks and Rebates
The story of incentives to help residents get sun-powered is really a Tale of Two Cities. Or more accurately the Tale of Three Utilities.
That’s because 2 of the main utilities in the state offer a generous set of solar-friendly incentives. And another offers pretty much zippo.
South Carolina RPS
South Carolina, as we’ve already said, is pretty much a late-comer to the solar party. They only set their RPS (a target for how much electricity should be generated by renewables) back in 2014.
And the RPS target itself is a bit like turning up that sun-lovin’ PV-party with a couple of bottles of Coors. It asks the state’s power companies to ensure a mere 2% of their generation comes from renewable sources. That underwhelming target only has to be reached by 2021.
Not to worry, though. Two of the state’s big utilities have jumped way ahead of mood music set by the RPS. They rock out some pretty impressive incentives.
More on those in a moment.
But first, what is an RPS really?
You’ll often hear the letters ‘RPS’ thrown about when talking about solar energy. But what exactly is a ‘Renewable Portfolio Standard’?
Basically, it’s a state law setting binding targets for clean energy. RPS have been really useful in getting the utilities to take renewable energy generation seriously.
After all, power companies need a push. Most still make money selling us more and more energy. They’re not best pleased that we’re starting to generate our own power.
The threat of fines makes the utilities extra keen to offer their customers incentives, rebates, and grants for their solar systems. Everyone wins.
They avoid the fine, and you get the low-cost solar power. Without an RPS, utilities are much less likely to help with solar or wind power for their customers.
That makes us at Solar Nation big fans of a fat-numbered RPS.
South Carolina tax credit
We think the state’s Solar Energy Tax Credit is really sweet.
It’s one of juiciest of South Carolina’s schemes for helping its homeowners go solar—a 25% tax credit for those paying the state’s tax. Admittedly it’s capped at $3,500, but that’s enough to knock a big chunk off of your outlay in the first year.
Put those 2 tax credits together and you get close to halving the cost of a mid-sized system.
Are there any Rebates for Solar Power in South Carolina?
Yes and no.
It depends who your utility is. If you’re lucky enough to have Duke Energy as your power company, you’ll receive a cool $1/watt rebate off the cost of those solar panels.
Things can be pretty peachy for some of those South Carolinian's chasing the sun!
South Carolina Tax Exemptions
There are 2 other ways that the state can help homeowners move over to clean energy, saving the planet, as well as their bills.
The first is a property tax exemption. This is needed because having solar panels on the roof immediately adds thousands of dollars to your home’s value.
It seems a little unfair that those doing their bit to aid our energy independence, and cut emissions, should have to pay extra property taxes.
Sadly, in South Carolina they do. There’s no property tax exemption here.
The other possible exemption is for sales tax on the cost of buying and installing the system.
South Carolina Electricity Rates
Electricity costs in South Carolina have long been just below those of the national average. In 2015 the state-wide average was 12.4 cents per kWh. That compare to the 12.7 cents per kWh that the average U.S. family paid out in 2015.
But those numbers hide some big variations between utilities, especially as utilities like Santee Copper have doubled down on nuclear power of late. It may be (kind of) clean, but nuclear power plants need billions of dollars up-front, and that is impacting electric rates big time.
These numbers matter so much, when we’re number-crunching the profits for solar, because the higher the rates the more money you make from switching to solar.
But the really important thing to look out for is rate rises over time.
And electricity rates in South Carolina are racing ahead, up by nearly 50%in the decade since 2004. That’s why delaying the move to solar is risky.The later you leave it, the harder you’ll be hit by yearly utility rate increases.
These are something like 5% a year at the moment, a rate which could get higher.
Is there Net Metering in South Carolina?
Another yes and no answer here.
And again it depends on who your utility is. If it’s Duke Energy, or SCE&G (or pretty much anyone except Santee Cooper) you’re covered by the state wide Net Metering rules. These were passed in 2014.
Net Metering means you get credits for excess electricity you produce, as it flows back onto the grid. Any surplus gets rolled over from 1 month to the next. Even better, you’ll get a big fat check for if you produce more energy than you use over 12 months.
There are 2 drawbacks. First there’s a limit to how much Net Metering is being allowed. It’s set to 2% of the peak demand that the utility experience.
You don’t need to understand exactly what that means. What you do need to understand is that Net Metering has a limited shelf life.
Eventually it will all be used up, as more and more customers sign up to it.
So it’s definitely a case of the early bird catching that solar worm. We say move fast on your PV application.
The second drawback is Santee Cooper (again). Because it’s a self-regulating authority, and not an investor-owned utility, it’s not regulated by Public Service Commission.
So no Net Metering at all for their customers.
What's net metering anyways?
Net metering is a vital part of making solar power work for homeowners. It means little is wasted, even when the power you generate, and the power you use, aren’t exactly balanced.
Rather than letting that spare power go to waste, Net Metering means your meter effectively spins backwards.
And as it spins, it earns money for you.
Your utility has to pay you for the energy you’re supplying to them under Net Metering. Often this is at the retail electricity rate, the rate you normally pay them.
Welcome to the wonderful world of energy independence!
Are there 0 down payment financing Options in South Carolina?
Yes, the whole range of pay-nothing-now options have been available in South Carolina since 2014—from loans to leases to power purchase agreements (PPAs).
These are increasingly popular, and offer a great way to leverage your solar investment—or simply to power your home with green energy without spending big wedges of greenback.
Each has advantages and disadvantages, though. Let’s take a look at which might best suit you.
Solar Lease in South Carolina?
Leasing works wonders for those who can’t tap the equity in their home for a loan. Or those who can’t access the upfront cash for a purchase. A lease lets you put $0 down, get those panels on your roof, and then watch the savings roll in.
The savings won’t be as impressive as using your own money. And the rates in South Carolina are around average, so you’ll only begin saving further down the line, if you take the lease route.
One thing to check is your performance-guarantee clause. This is needed, as you’ll be paying a fixed fee every month, rather than for each kWh of electricity produced.
But it does mean that you’ll want to be sure those panels will be pumping out electricity for their whole lifespan. A performance-guarantee clause on your lease ensures that.
Solar Power Loan?
If you’d prefer to own your solar panels, for only a small (or even no) outlay, then a solar loan makes sense.
This way you’ll get better rates of return, especially if you can tap a home-equity line of credit. You’ll soon be solar powered, and you won’t have to raid your cash savings.
You will, however, be on the line for any maintenance or cleaning your panels will need.
PPA Option on South Carolina?
This is the other approach for going solar with no (or little) upfront cost. PPAs are similar to leases, but rather than paying a fee to lease the panels from a third-party, you’re only paying for the power that they produce.
No hassles of ownership. No worries about performance. And no big down-payments.
You’ll find the savings are quite a lot less than with purchases or loans, though.
But remember that you’ve put no money down to earn those savings. So even if you won’t be saving tens of thousands—like you would for a purchase—the rates of return can be better in many cases.
What is PPA?
A Power Purchase Agreement, or PPA, is an agreement between you and your solar panel provider. You provide them with the roof for the panels. They provide you with power at a guaranteed price.
Most PPAs also have an option for you to buy the system at the end of the contract, which can add real value to your home.
One thing to look out for here is the PPA price escalator. This is where the PPA price rises gradually throughout your PPA contract, according to an agreed schedule.
These escalators are a reasonable way for the solar panel company to take gradual performance and maintenance issues into account over its lifetime.
Just make sure your PPA escalator isn’t too steep. It should be much less than expected utility rate rises.
Is there Feed In Tariff in South Carolina?
A nice straight “No” here.
Like most U.S. states, there’s no Feed In Tariff (a guaranteed payment for every kWh of solar power you produce) in South Carolina.
However, one utility does offer a similar performance-based scheme—South Carolina Electric & Gas. If you’re a SCE&G customer, you can enroll on their Customer Scale Solar Program.
The devil, though, is in the detail. The scheme is tailored to keep reducing as the amount of solar power installed in the utility’s territory increases. Once there are more than 9 Megawatts of solar panels soaking up the sunshine, the payment drops to zero.
There’s no way of knowing how long this incentive will last. All we can say is, if you’re an SCE&G customer, it’s best to move fast.
Leasing vs Purchasing: What's best for South Carolina Homeowners?
As with many things, the choice between leasing and purchasing depends on how you see risk and reward. And on how much skin you want in the solar game.
Leasing works well for the risk adverse. For those who want to help clean up our energy, and cut pollution, but without taking on the hassles (and big initial outlay) of purchase.
At the moment, in South Carolina, rates of return are excellent. So if you have the cash, purchasing will earn you the best overall savings.
But for those without the cash, a lease can also see you make savings throughout your lease period. Just not as big.
What is the Solar Panel Installation Process in South Carolina?
The solar installation process starts with home visit by an energy assessment team. They’ll talk to you about your bills, how best to site your system, and the financial options available.
Once they’ve got the measure of your place, and found out exactly what your needs are, they’ll be provide you with a fully detailed PV quote.
This will highlight potential tax rebates, breaks, and incentives that may be available to you.
They’ll also give you detailed breakdown of the savings you can expect to make.
Once you’ve agreed and signed your agreement, the solar installation team can schedule a date for transforming your house from energy sink into a solar-powered energy producer!
The installation process usually only takes three to four days.
1. Fill in our simple solar form 2. Receive quotes from the best local solar suppliers 3. Choose the best money-saving solar option for you 4. Once your system is installed, just sit back, relax—and watch the savings roll in
1. Fill in our simple solar form
2. Receive quotes from the best local solar suppliers
3. Choose the best money-saving solar option for you
4. Once your system is installed, just sit back, relax—and watch the savings roll in
South Carolina is one of those states where the promise of solar is shining most brightly. They may be late-starters, but because of that many of their most generous schemes are still in place.
Add to that an excellent sunshine-resource and ever-increasing utility rates, and South Carolina really is a state where the low-hanging fruit is ripe for the plucking.
Switching to solar now really couldn’t be sweeter!
We’ll then be able to connect you with tried-and-trusted South Carolina solar installers. They’ll get you harvesting the sun in no time.