7 Steps to Solar Panels in South Carolina

Solar power has had a slower growth rate in South Carolina, but it’s becoming increasingly popular thanks to the remarkable savings it can produce over the decades.

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South Carolina does not boast a massive share of solar power in its clean energy mix. But as the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports, South Carolina jumped from the 26th state for solar adoption to the 14th in just one year.1 This is proof that more and more people in the Palmetto State are becoming interested in home solar power.

A solar panel system in SC costs about $2.72 per watt on average, which is a little higher than the national average of $2.66/W. It comes out to nearly $30,000 for the 12 kilowatt (kW) system needed to offset all of your energy needs. However, thanks to a bunch of national and state solar rebates and incentives, homeowners can save a significant amount of money with solar panels.

Overall, going solar in South Carolina is worth it in the long run. If you are contemplating getting solar panels for your property, here is a list of steps involved in the process, which we discuss in more detail in the following sections:

Step 1: What to Consider When Buying Solar Panels

Step 2: Getting a Quote from a Solar Provider 

Step 3: Signing a Solar Contract 

Step 4: What to Expect on Solar Panel Installation Day 

Step 5: Final Inspection for Installed Solar Panels

Step 6: Permission to Operate (PTO) 

Step 7: Set Back and Enjoy Your Solar Energy

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Step 1: What to Consider when Buying Solar Panels in South Carolina

south carolina solar panels
Credit: Antranias / Pixabay

Converting to solar is generally beneficial in the state of South Carolina, but its pricing and returns vary based on several factors. Before you decide to go solar in SC, it’s important to consider a few key aspects.

Research If Solar Panels Are a Good Fit For You in South Carolina

Your solar journey begins with considering if solar panels are a good fit for your particular requirements. To begin with, you can research whether they are worth buying in South Carolina.

You may also want to gauge how many solar panels you need. It is a good idea to research the solar programs available in South Carolina, along with any recent changes.

For example, the Public Services Commission in SC recently approved a new time-variable net metering tariff, which still credits you for the renewable energy your panels produce, but it won’t pay a uniform rate for the energy like it used to. (Check out our guide to South Carolina solar incentives for more information on that)

Here’s a table that compares solar panel cost and related parameters in South Carolina with national averages:

South Carolina Average U.S. Average
Cost of Solar $2.72/W $2.66/W
Average System Size 12 kW 9 kW
Average System Cost $29,920 $23,940
Average System Cost After Federal Solar Tax Credit (ITC) $20,944 $16,758
Solar Payback Period 11 years 8 years

You’ll also want to consider other benefits of installing a solar system, like lower utility bills and clean energy usage.

Research How to Finance Solar Panels

Solar panels do save tens of thousands over their lifespan, but they also cost a substantial sum to buy. And despite the tremendous potential returns, not everyone has enough savings to purchase a system in cash. This makes researching solar financing options important.

There are four main methods of financing solar panels, including:

  • Cash purchase: Paying for your solar array upfront isn’t feasible for every homeowner. However, you’ll enjoy the lowest overall system cost, you’ll see the shortest panel payback period and you’ll have access to all incentives, including the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) and South Carolina’s solar state tax credit.
  • Solar loan: A solar loan involves financing your panels and paying interest over the length of the loan. The interest drives up the all-in price to go solar and extends the payback period a bit, but you get the benefit of paying a small amount of money upfront rather than the typical $28,000. Plus, you can use some of your energy cost savings to pay down your loan.
  • Solar lease: With a solar lease, you pay a monthly fee to essentially “rent” your solar panel system while using the energy it generates. Leases come with no down payment and don’t even require good credit in most cases. However, the ROI is significantly lower, you’ll never own your panels and you cannot take advantage of many solar incentives or tax credits.
  • Power Purchase Agreement (PPA): With a PPA, a solar company installs your solar energy system for free, and you buy the electricity they generate, usually at a discounted price. These agreements are the least appealing options financially for most people, and they don’t let you take the federal tax credit. However, they have no down payment requirements and no monthly costs.

Unfortunately, South Carolina does not have an incentivized, low-interest loan option for solar power systems. However, buyers can choose one of the following options from independent financial institutions:

  • Banks
  • Construction loans
  • First mortgages
  • Home equity loans
  • Home refinance

Keep in mind that financing solar panels may reduce the savings by a small but noticeable margin, pushing your solar payback period further. Speaking of savings, you can check our solar calculator to figure out the system size you need and the resultant savings from it.

Step 2: Getting a Quote from a Solar Provider 

Once you have decided to get solar panels, it is time to look for the correct solar installer — one that fits your needs perfectly.

Picking a Solar Installer

No matter where you live, there will always be a handful of solar providers serving your area. You can start by researching the best solar companies in South Carolina, as well as the best solar companies in the U.S.

You can get a more trustworthy brand when you go with a national provider, but a local company can offer a more personalized service. Local companies are often also well versed with the permitting and other requirements in their service areas.

What to Expect After Requesting a Quote

Once you have listed down a few companies of your liking, request a free quote from each of them. Receiving multiple quotes helps you compare different providers not only on the cost criterion, but other parameters such as warranties, equipment offered, etc. Some providers may even agree to price match.

Before presenting you with a quote, the installers will request a few more details from you. This includes your electric bills, roof information, etc. Using this information, the installer will then put together a comprehensive quote/proposal, which will outline your system layout, pricing, warranties, solar panel brand, etc.

You can also explore financing options at this stage, if you don’t wish to purchase your system cash. You can ask your solar provider if they work with a lending agency, or if they recommend one.

Consider purchasing Solar Accessories

Before you sign the purchase agreement, you may want to explore solar accessories which can help get the most value out of your system. A great example is a solar battery system for energy storage, especially in areas where net metering is not available.

Electric vehicle (EV) chargers and solar carports are some other accessories that can be useful, considering the inevitable shift to EVs. Bundling these accessories with your solar panel purchase can even get you a better deal. Additionally, the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) could also bring you tax breaks on EVs – calculate how much you save with our IRA Calculator.

Step 3: Signing a Solar Contract in South Carolina

solar panels south carolina
Credit: TheOtherKev / Pixabay

Based on the multiple proposals received and discussions with the solar providers approached, it is time to choose one provider that fulfills your needs best. Make sure to read the purchase agreement carefully.

How Do Solar Warranties Work in South Carolina?

Similar to most other U.S. locations, solar providers in SC offer three main types of warranties:

  • Equipment warranties: Applicable to the solar equipment installed, these warranties vary with each component of the system. Solar panels can have anywhere between a 10 and 25-year warranty, while solar inverters and batteries usually come with 10-year warranties.
  • Workmanship/labor warranty: The labor warranty backs the quality of installation, and applies to the system as a whole. These warranties can be anywhere between 5 and 10 years, while some providers are also known to warrant their systems for up to 25 years.
  • Performance guarantee: An operational system is useful only if it generates the promised amount of energy. Performance guarantees are applicable to the system output over time. Most solar panels come with a performance guarantee of at least 80% by year 25.

When selecting a solar installer for your house, it is best to go with a company that offers the longest, most comprehensive warranties.

When Can I Expect Solar Service to go live?

Aside from the actual installation, getting a solar power system involves many other steps. While the timelines can vary by location and other factors, the average time required for getting a system on your roof in South Carolina can take anywhere between a month and three months (up to six months in some rare cases).

The solar panel installation time can also depend where you live. There may be more installation availability in populated areas like Columbia, Greenville or Charleston. But if you live in a more rural area, it may take longer to get your permitting and installation scheduled.

Solar Panel Permits in South Carolina

Different cities and utilities in SC may require a different set of permits for solar power systems. Local zoning laws in your city may even restrict where and how you install your solar panels. Your installer will need to check all the requirements beforehand.

The installer will also need to apply for a utility interconnection for you to enjoy net metering. Overall, your installer will need to prepare and fulfill the following checklist before your system can go live:

  • Net energy metering application
  • Net energy metering interconnection agreement
  • One-line diagram of the system
  • Certificate of insurance
  • Application fee
  • City/county inspection
  • Utility onsite inspection2

Although this may seem complicated, the permitting process will entirely be handled by your solar provider, and you won’t have to do anything. The costs of permitting will also be included in the installation cost of your system.

Solar & Utility Interconnection

As mentioned previously, the net energy metering interconnection, also simply known as utility interconnection, is an essential part of any system. This allows you to send energy back and forth with your electricity provider, eliminating the need for a battery bank and saving money.

The interconnection process usually adds some time and complexity to your system approval, but is worth it in the long run, unless you plan to have a fully off-grid solar system.

Step 4: What to Expect on Solar Panel Installation Day in South Carolina

Once your system has received all the required permits, it is time for the system to be installed. Your installer will schedule a date and time with you for this, and the installation crew will arrive at your location with the equipment and tools.

Although it is not necessary for you to be home through the entire installation process, it is certainly recommended as it helps understand how your system is put together. Expect to hear a lot of noises on your roof during the installation.

Many installations are completed within a day, but depending on available manpower, system size and other factors, it may sometimes take multiple days to complete.

Step 5: Final Inspection for Installed Solar Panels in South Carolina

Before it can be switched on, your system will be inspected by the utility company and/or city office to ensure safety of the system, the house, and the nearby grid.

Similar to the permitting, the cost of inspection will also be included in your quote, and your installer will communicate with the inspecting authority and you about the schedule.

Step 6: Permission to Operate (PTO) in South Carolina

As the name suggests, the Permission to Operate (PTO) is the final approval that allows you to switch the system on. The PTO is given by your utility company, after your system’s inspection is complete and everything is in order.

At this stage, your installer will guide you through your system components and controls, and let you know how to turn the system on (and off). They will also guide you about any remote monitoring platforms/apps, which show you your system’s real-time and historical energy generation.

In the case of an emergency related to the solar power system, immediately call the installer or 911.

Step 7: Sit Back and Enjoy Your Solar Energy in South Carolina

Once your system is switched on, it will instantly start powering your home (unless it is dark outside). At this stage, all the hard work on your end is done, and it’s your solar panels’ job to work hard for up to 3 decades.

Your solar power system will not only help your wallet but also the environment. Moreover, solar is likely to increase your property value, as observed in multiple studies.

FAQ: Solar Panels in South Carolina

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Article author
Dan Simms is an experienced writer with a passion for renewable energy. As a solar and EV advocate, much of his work has focused on the potential of solar power and deregulated energy, but he also writes on related topics, like real estate and economics. In his free time — when he's not checking his own home's solar production — he enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, skiing and rock climbing.
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Expert reviewer
Kristina Zagame is a journalist, editor and content writer with expertise in solar and other energy-related topics. Before joining EcoWatch, Kristina was a TV news reporter and producer, covering a wide variety of topics including West Coast wildfires and hurricane relief efforts. Kristina’s reporting has taken her all over the U.S., as well as to Puerto Rico and Chile.

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