Solar-Estimate.org’s solar calculator found that in 2019, a 5 kilowatt (kW) residential rooftop solar system has an average cost of $15,400 before incentives are put into place. With the 30% federal tax credit alone, that cost shrinks to $10,780. Then, there’s the 25% statewide solar tax credit, which maxes out at $3,500 a year. At that rate, a homeowner in South Carolina can expect to pay off the price of a solar system installation within 5 to 8 years.
With a properly sized rooftop solar system, a homeowner can wipe out most, if not all of their electric costs. For instance, a 5kW solar system would cost an average $83 per month, saving a homeowner $28,900 in electric bills – enough to buy a nice, new car.
2019 is one of the best years to go solar in South Carolina for a number of reasons.
It’s the last year that the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is at its full 30% rebate for the cost of a solar system
South Carolina has a great statewide solar tax credit that is equal to 25% of the cost of a system
Duke Energy Star offers a solar rebate program with customers receiving $1 per watt installed
Santee Cooper offers another terrific solar rebate program with a range of incentives, so long as your solar system is 6kW in size or less
The state of South Carolina enacted the Energy Freedom Act, a solar incentive program that protects homeowners and businesses in the state by raising caps on net metering as well as taking other steps to allow people to go solar
If you are unable to go solar in 2019, don’t worry, as the price of solar continues to fall.
However, there are upcoming changes to the Investment Tax Credit. In 2020, the ITC will drop to 26% of the cost of a solar array before dropping to 22% in 2021. It ends altogether in 2022 for homeowners and drops to 10% for commercial-scale solar projects.
The bill established that:
An electric utility shall make full retail rate NEM available to all customer-generators that apply before June 1, 2021. Customers who participate in NEM program after the effective date of this act but before 6/1/21 shall continue net energy metering until May 31, 2029.
– Solar Energy Industries Association
The Energy Freedom Act law also requires the state to move forward with a net metering successor program once the current net metering program ends, which is slated for June 2021. The new law also made important changes to solar power in South Carolina including removing caps on rooftop solar in utilities’ service areas.
The law was integral in ensuring the solar market in the state remained viable.
Targets set in South Carolina’s Act 236 from 2014 had underestimated the demand for solar in the state. Instead of propelling growth of the distributed solar market through 2021 as intended, investor-owned utilities began encountering statutory caps three years early.
Some utilities, including Duke Energy and Santee Cooper, offer additional incentives like rebates and loans to help finance solar system installations. These can further reduce the cost of a photovoltaic solar rooftop system in South Carolina.
Are there any drawbacks to going solar in South Carolina?
Despite the numerous incentives for going solar in the state, some drawbacks do exist. However, they are scant.
South Carolina lacks a statewide interconnection standard (or requirement), meaning utilities have free reign in regards to setting their own requirements and charges.
Some utilities, like Duke and South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G), offer solar electric system interconnections to the grid with no monthly fees. Others, such as Santee Cooper, do impose such fees.
The Southern Environmental Law Center has a nifty tool that allows users to see whether or not a utility in South Carolina charges these fees and how much they add up to. For instance, Santee Cooper’s monthly solar fees add up to $24 per month for a rooftop solar system. Over a 30-year lifespan, those fees could accumulate to over $8,600, the tool found.
The tool calculates net metering rates for various utilities, as well.