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Is Solar Panel Installation Worth it in South Carolina?

Is Rooftop Solar Worth it in South Carolina

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Have you thought about getting solar panels installed on your South Carolina home? Making that decision can be daunting, considering the upfront costs of solar installation are relatively expensive. So, you’re probably wondering if it’s worth the investment.

South Carolina is a haven for technological innovation. While some people may not know it, South Carolina boasts some of the country’s top programs to help people switch to rooftop solar energy. From net metering to rebate programs, it’s clear that South Carolina is doing its part to promote renewable energy. But the question remains: is solar energy right for you?

To answer that question, we’re going to break down everything there is to know about rooftop solar energy in South Carolina. We’ll cover the cost of installation, the financial programs available to help offset that cost, the programs specific to South Carolina residents, and the amount of money you’ll be able to save by making the switch. Let’s get started.

How Much Does Solar Installation Cost in South Carolina?

When you’re talking about solar installation costs, it’s important to note that there are many different facets you have to consider. This process varies depending on the size of your system, the location, the installer you choose, and more. 

Based on information from the South Carolina government, it costs between $3 and $5 per watt of energy installed. So, with a 5-kilowatt (1 kilowatt = 1,000 watts) solar system, you’re talking about $15,000 to $25,000, on average. Other energy experts put that cost between $2.67 and $3.61, with an average of $3.14 per watt. That puts the total cost of solar installation for a 5-kilowatt system between $13,350 and $18,050, with an average of $15,700.

If all that math is a little overwhelming, don’t worry about it. Those are just average prices to give you an idea of what you might expect by pursuing solar installation in South Carolina. If you purchase a system with a capacity larger than 5 kilowatts, expect that price to be a little higher.

This may seem a bit pricey, but doesn’t necessarily reflect what you’ll actually pay. Luckily, there are incentive and rebate programs in South Carolina to help reduce those prices.

Solar Incentives and Rebates in South Carolina

South Carolina has many programs available that can significantly reduce the amount of money you ultimately pay for rooftop solar panel installation. These programs aren’t always simple price reductions, though. They don’t work like coupons you bring to the store, so it’s essential that you keep that in mind. Let’s break it down a little bit. 

The Federal Tax Credit

Abbreviated to ITC (the Federal Investment Tax Credit), this program is nationwide and is available to anyone in the U.S. who wants to pursue solar energy installation. The federal government will provide a credit on your annual taxes of up to 26% of the total cost of your solar installation. For instance, if you paid $15,000 for your solar installation, you’d get $3,900 off your taxes for that year. Think about it like a considerable income tax deduction.

South Carolina State Tax Credit

The South Carolina state government has an extremely generous program, offering a 25% credit on your state income taxes. This works just like the Federal Tax Credit, with a limit of $3,500 or 50% of your annual liability. Just getting into the math again, if you paid $15,000, you’d save $3,500 on your state taxes for the year of the installation. 

Electric Company Rebates in South Carolina

It doesn’t stop with the state and federal governments, either. Energy companies are even getting in on the action, offering reward programs to their customers who switch to solar energy.

Duke Energy

Duke Energy, a utility company in South Carolina, gives customers $1 for every watt of solar energy installed on their residential or commercial properties. So, if you purchased a 5-kilowatt solar system, you’d receive $5,000 to help offset the cost of your South Carolina solar installation.

Santee Cooper

Santee Cooper, another utility company in S.C., offers customers $1.30 for every watt of solar energy installed on their residential or commercial properties. The most a single customer can get is $5,200, which is more than enough to help with the upfront cost of solar panel installation. 

Other Financing Options

Some providers provide financing options, so it’s best to speak with your solar company and ask if they have any programs available. Beyond that, you can apply for a solar loan from a bank. If you aren’t approved, or that isn’t enough, you can always take out a personal loan, too. 

Is Rooftop Solar Worth it in South Carolina

Net Metering in South Carolina

Net metering is an incredible program available in South Carolina that serves as a financial and practical incentive for pursuing solar installation. To talk about this accurately, we need to go into how electricity works.

The grid is the system used by utility companies to send power to homes in any given area. When a home is “on the grid,” it is connected to this system. All the energy created in South Carolina is stored in central hubs, then sent out through the electrical lines and wires to power homes.

When you have a rooftop solar panel system installed on your home, it’s connected to this grid. So, unless you have a solar battery and are “off the grid,” all the energy you generate but don’t use goes back into the grid. This is an excellent system because it essentially means that you help provide renewable energy for the entire state of South Carolina.

The Net Metering Incentive

Of course, because South Carolina is such a great state, they actually reward you for how much energy you create. They don’t provide an immediate financial kickback (like some states). Instead, they take all the extra power you generate, roll it over to the following month, and then provide financial kickbacks for anything extra you’ve generated and not used at the end of the year. 

With companies like South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G), you get energy credits, which are super simple to use. If you don’t generate enough electricity in a given day, the credits will kick in, and you won’t have to pay for the extra electricity you draw from the grid. With Duke Energy, it works pretty much the same way. If you have an exceptionally high energy day that your solar panel doesn’t cover, then you get grid electricity provided to your house essentially for free.

That being said, if you want to end your dependence on grid energy, it’s essential to get a solar panel system that covers the amount of electricity you actually use. Analyze your monthly usage, and be sure to purchase a system that is large enough to cover your electricity needs.

How Much Money Can I Save with Solar Energy?

There are a few things you must consider when asking this question. With the initial cost of the system plus the financial incentive programs, it’s not as simple as just eliminating a bill and multiplying your savings. To truly understand this, you need to first look at the payback period for solar installation in South Carolina.

The Payback Period

With all of the financial incentives, credits, and rebate programs we discussed above, the cost of your solar installation is going to be significantly reduced. Of course, you’ll still have to pay a little bit, so how long will it take for your savings to completely cover that initial cost?

According to experts in solar energy, it’ll take 7.99 years on average to offset the cost of a solar panel installation in South Carolina. That’s essentially 8 years before you’ve earned enough savings to offset that initial price tag.

The Actual Savings

When you have your entire solar system paid off in 8 years, the savings will really start to kick in. Considering the life of a solar panel system is between 25 and 30 years, that means you’re going to get about 22 years of savings. What does that mean in dollars and cents? Well, this depends on the average cost of your electricity bill.

According to the United States Energy Information Administration, the average monthly electricity in South Carolina is $140.80. In 22 years of savings (assuming you generate enough electricity to cover your electrical needs), you’ll save $37,171.20. That’s an insane amount of money that you can save by switching to solar this year!

Last Thoughts

Let’s look back at what we’ve discussed. The median cost of a rooftop solar panel system installation in South Carolina is around $15,700. With a 5-kilowatt system, you can get over $7,000 in federal and state tax credits. With incentives provided by utility companies, you can get a lot of money for making the switch. Plus, with net metering, you can almost guarantee that you’ll never have to pay for electricity again. With all that said, it’ll take some time to cover the initial cost of the installation, but once you do, your savings will be massive.

Beyond all the money talk, we are currently facing a global crisis, and solar energy is at the forefront in the battle against climate change. By making the switch to solar, you’re doing your part to create a better world and a better future. So, when considering the benefits of solar energy to your wallet, your home, and your planet, it’s easy to determine that rooftop solar power is definitely worth the investment in South Carolina.

Sources:

Solar.SC.Gov 

Energy Sage 

Energy Sage 

Green Biz 

Smart Asset