Solar power generation in South Carolina has grown by almost 140% since the beginning of 2020, due in part to a growing number of residential solar panel installations. If you live in the Palmetto State, solar panels could help you save money on electricity bills and lower your home's carbon footprint.
South Carolina residents use more electricity per month than other states, driving up monthly energy bills. According to CNET's sister publication SaveOnEnergy, South Carolinians paid 12% more in energy bills in September 2022 than the national average.
According to the Energy Information Administration, South Carolina residents paid an average of $139 a month in 2021. By powering your home with a solar panel system that covers your entire energy usage, you could save around $1,674 each year. You can estimate your potential savings with solar panels by checking your electricity bill to discover how much energy you use each month. This is the starting point for determining your solar system's size. Electricity rates in South Carolina have increased 13% since September 2021, and with energy prices predicted to soar, the potential savings with solar could also rise.
While traditional energy prices have increased in recent years, the cost of residential solar panels has decreased by more than 64% since 2000, according to a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report. Federal, state and local tax credits and incentives can lower the cost of solar panels even more.
South Carolina solar panel costs
The cost of a residential solar panel system depends on installation costs, how many panels you need and whether you include components like solar batteries. According to Find Energy, homes in South Carolina need a 9-kilowatt solar system to cover the average energy consumption in the state. Because South Carolinians tend to have higher energy usage levels than the rest of the US, the average solar system cost is also higher.
As solar panels become more popular in South Carolina, the number of solar panel installers in the state has increased. The SEIA estimates there are just over 80 solar companies in South Carolina, giving residents a variety of options to choose from. Here's a breakdown of the average cost of solar panels in South Carolina compared to the nationwide average using data from Find Energy and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report.
Solar costs in South Carolina vs. the US
||System size (kW)||Price per watt||Total cost|
Solar panels are a large upfront investment, but there are several financing options to make the initial purchase easier. Some residents buy their solar panels upfront. Others finance their system over time with a solar loan. Solar leases and power purchase agreements are also available in South Carolina, although you won't qualify for tax incentives with these options.
South Carolina solar panel incentives or rebates
While the average cost of a solar panel system in South Carolina is higher than the national average, there are solar tax incentives, rebates and credits to make solar more affordable.
The Residential Clean Energy Credit is a federal solar tax incentive offered in all 50 states that credits 30% of the total cost of a solar system to consumers who purchase solar panels. Previously known as the Investment Tax Credit, this incentive was increased and extended when the Inflation Reduction Act was passed in August 2022. In South Carolina, this solar incentive alone could save you up to $10,880. There is no cap on how much you can claim with this tax credit, so you can receive the full 30% no matter how much your solar panel system costs.
If you purchase solar panels, you can apply for the Residential Clean Energy Credit by following the instructions provided by the IRS and filling out IRS form 5695 (PDF). Once your application is approved, you will receive 30% of the cost of your system in credit when you file your annual federal tax return.
There are also various state and local solar tax credits and financial incentives available in South Carolina. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency offers a comprehensive list of South Carolina solar incentives. Here are a few you should know about.
|South Carolina Solar Tax Credit||This state-level solar program offers a tax credit of 25% of the cost of a solar panel system back to residents. The tax credit is capped at $35,000 or 50% of the taxpayer's tax liability for the year.|
|Santee Cooper Rooftop Solar Rebate Program||Santee Cooper customers who install solar panel systems on their homes receive a rebate of up to $5,700.|
|Property Tax Exemption||South Carolina offers a property tax exemption for renewable energy systems (including solar panel systems) with a capacity of 20kW or less.|
|Net Metering Programs||Net metering lets consumers sell excess solar power produced by their solar panels back to the grid. In exchange, consumers receive a credit on their electricity bills. Your solar system must remain connected to the grid to participate in net metering.|
South Carolina solar panel companies
Choosing a solar panel installer can feel overwhelming, given the growing number of solar companies in South Carolina. We've compiled a list of solar panel installation companies that set themselves apart in the industry. Here are a few of the top South Carolina solar installers to consider.
Founded in 2010, Palmetto Solar has become one of the largest solar companies in the US and offers solar panels for purchase or through a solar lease or PPA. Currently, most of Palmetto's customers buy its solar panels.
Palmetto offers a subscription model of support called Palmetto Protect. With this service, you'll receive system monitoring and tiered levels of support if your solar panels underperform, fail or are damaged. Solar panels from Palmetto have an efficiency rating above 19.8% and the installer offers a minimum 12-year product warranty and a 25-year performance warranty.
Solar Energy World
Solar Energy World was founded in 2009 and operates across 10 states, including South Carolina. This installer offers solar panels from several manufacturers, as well as solar batteries and live system monitoring. With Solar Energy World, you can buy your solar panel system outright or sign a lease or PPA.
Solar Energy World's warranty terms are excellent. This installer offers a 30-year manufacturer warranty on panels and inverters and a labor warranty for all service-related issues. It also provides a one-year production warranty that guarantees the system will generate at least 90% of its estimated production within the first year of installation. Solar Energy World has a satisfaction guarantee and its warranties are transferable if you sell your home.
SunPower Solar offers some of the best panels in the industry, with an efficiency rating of 22.8%. SunPower Solar also excels in terms of its warranty options, guaranteeing its panels will produce 92% capacity or higher for 25 years. It also offers a 12-year roof warranty, which covers roofing issues after installation, and a 10-year equipment warranty.
SunPower provides an impressive lineup of solar products, including panels and batteries. If you choose SunPower as your installer, you can purchase your solar system or sign a lease or PPA. SunPower's Equinox package includes Maxeon solar panels, Enphase microinverters and necessary mounting hardware.
Sunrun is the largest solar company in America and offers top-tier solar panels, batteries and inverters. While you can buy solar panels from Sunrun, most of Sunrun's customers sign a lease to rent their solar panels for a monthly fee. While solar leases can significantly lower the upfront cost of a solar panel system, it's important to note that you won't own your solar panels. Therefore, you won't qualify for most solar incentives and the savings you will experience will be lower in the long run than if you owned your system.
Sunrun offers "bumper-to-bumper" coverage on system monitoring, maintenance and repairs if you sign a lease or PPA. Customers who buy their system will rely on the manufacturer's warranty terms, which can vary. Sunrun offers a 10-year quality warranty to cover roof damage or installation issues.
Installation factors to consider
Purchasing or leasing solar panels is a big decision. Before you sign a contract, you must consider the investment from all angles. Here are some installation aspects to think about beforehand.
- Your roof's condition: The age, shape and slope of your roof will affect how much electricity a solar system can generate. For example, the Department of Energy says solar panels will be most efficient (and produce more power) on roofs sloping between 15 and 40 degrees. If your roof is old or needs repairs, you may have to replace it before installing solar panels.
- Your HOA or neighborhood requirements: HOAs cannot ban solar panel installations in South Carolina. However, your neighborhood may have specific requirements or approval processes. Be sure to check before installing solar panels on your property.
- Your insurance policy: Once your solar panels are installed, you should contact your homeowner's insurance agency to update your policy to include the panels. Most standard home insurance policies can include solar panels, so you shouldn't need a separate policy. However, you should check with your agency to confirm the details.
- Your location: While solar panels can generate electricity in indirect sunlight, they will be much more efficient when they get at least 4 hours of direct sunlight per day. South Carolina has more sunny days each year than the national average. However, if your roof has a lot of shade coverage, this is an important factor to consider before deciding.
- Your living situation: If you rent your home, you may not be allowed to install solar panels. Check with your landlord or property manager to confirm whether you can install rooftop solar. If not, community solar is another option. With community solar programs, you can subscribe to solar power produced at another location and get a credit on your energy bills. The amount you pay for this subscription should be lower than the value of the credits.
South Carolina solar power FAQs
How long do solar panels last?
Solar panels have an average lifespan of between 25 and 30 years. Your solar panels won't stop working after 30 years, but the system's performance may decrease as it gets older. Your solar panels' lifespan will depend on the quality, climate, maintenance and installation factors.
Are solar panels worth the money in South Carolina?
Solar panels can be a great investment in South Carolina because of the state's solar incentives and sunny climate. You should also ask yourself whether solar panels are the right investment for your household. Before making your decision, consider the factors listed on this page to determine whether the upfront cost of a solar system makes sense for you.
How do I find a solar installer in South Carolina?
Before choosing a solar installer, we recommend getting multiple quotes from different solar companies in your area so you can compare your options. Your research should also extend beyond which company offers the cheapest solar system. Take your time to read customer testimonials, review the installer's warranty terms and ask many questions before signing a contract. You can begin your research with CNET's choices of the best solar companies.