How to Find the Best Solar Companies in South Carolina

South Carolina probably isn’t the first place you think of for solar, but thanks to a handful of excellent incentives, the best solar companies in South Carolina can help you save thousands of dollars by installing rooftop solar.

As of 2019, South Carolina boasts about 83 MW of solar panels. That’s enough electricity to power about 12,000 homes, but it’s just a faint glimmer of solar-loving North Carolina’s total, which clocks in at 5,600 MW!

But that’s not the full story. Industry analysts expect the SC solar industry to boom in the next five years, as solar installation costs continue to fall. While the state has just under 50 solar installers now, get ready for more in the next few years.

Reaching out to multiple companies to find the best installer is the key to a great financial investment. With a knowledgeable, experience installer, you’ll not only have a better installation experience, but a well-designed system will produce more electricity. Higher energy production means you’ll see a faster return on investment, and save even more over the life of the system.

The easiest way to find the right solar company for you is to get quotes from local installers in our trusted marketplace.

Average South Carolina Home Solar Installation Costs

As of 2019, rooftop solar costs around $3.20/watt in South Carolina. That’s about $0.20 higher than the national average, and works out to about $19,200 for an average-sized installation. That might seem high, but multiple financial incentives – including the federal and state tax credits as well as utility rebates – help to strip away much of that cost in the first year.

Your installation costs, as well as savings, depend on the size of your installation. Below are some cost and savings estimates for common installation sizes in South Carolina.

Installation SizeTotal Installation CostTotal Cost with State and Federal Tax CreditsTotal SavingsPayback Period
Small Installation (4 kW)$14,800$7,760$15,92110 Years
Medium Installation (6 kW)$22,200$11,640$23,88210 Years
Large Installation (12 kW)$37,000$19,400$39,80410 Years

The chart above compares cost and savings for a small, average, and large rooftop solar installation in South Carolina. First, you’ll see the federal and state tax credits knock about 50% off your total installation cost.

You’ll also notice that, as the systems increase, so too do the savings. A 10 kW installation can save you over twice as much as a 4 kW installation. However, a bigger system isn’t necessarily best. You can also see that the payback period, or how long it takes to recoup your initial investment, remains at 10 years no matter how big your installation is.

Instead, focus on sizing your installation to cover your real-world energy needs. If you use 10,000 kWh of electricity each year, install a system that installs 10,000 kWh each year. Your installer will take care of this for you. They will assess your previous energy bills and design the most cost-effective system for your needs.

The 3 Best Solar Installation Companies in South Carolina

We looked at dozens of SC installers and settled on the following three, based on experience, warranty, and equipment:

  • Blue Raven: Most Experienced
  • South Coast Solar: Best Equipment
  • Renu Energy Solutions: Best Warranty

You’d be in good hands with any of the companies above. They all offer excellent customer service and enjoy great reviews from previous customers. Of course, with so many solar companies in South Carolina, don’t just take our word for it. Reach out to a few for estimates and find out what they say for yourself!

Blue Raven: Most Experienced

Quick Look: Over 4,300 installations, offices in 8 states

Blue Raven is actually based in Utah, but it has offices in 8 different states, including North and South Carolina. While we generally try to include local installers on our lists, Blue Raven’s excellent customer service and sheer enormity of installations is hard to ignore.

Since its founding in 2014, Blue Raven has installed 4,300 residential solar installations. That leaves you with assurance that they’ve seen it all and know how to handle any issues that may pop up, like complicated roof designs or abnormal roof issues, and that can slow progress to a halt with a less experienced installer.

Blue Raven only installs solar. They don’t install batteries, roofing, or fencing (yes, we’ve seen solar paired with fencing). As such, their experience and knowledge is 100% focused on what matters: a well-designed and well-installed solar installation that’ll save you money.

Customers report that staff is knowledgeable and the company has good communication systems in place to keep homeowners up-to-date on the process. Installers are professional, timely, and clean.

Blue Raven offers a 5-year workmanship warranty that ensures your system is designed and constructed properly. They also offers in-house financing, which they claim is cutting edge, though we couldn’t find anything that really set it apart from other loan options, so be sure to ask about the benefits and loan terms to compare against a few other lenders.

South Coast Solar: Best Equipment

Quick Look: Installs Sunpower equipment, over 4,000 installations

If you’re looking for the absolute best solar panels, keep South Coasts Solar in mind. They install Sunpower solar panels and are a certified Tesla Powerwall installer.

Arizona-based Sunpower is well-known for manufacturing the most efficient solar panels available on the market today. They typically produce about 20% more energy than standard-quality panels. That helps you produce more electricity and see a faster return on your investment (though your investment will be much larger, as Sunpower panels are about 1.5x to 2x more expensive than standard panels).

If you’re also interested in energy storage, Tesla’s Powerwall is the best option on the market when comparing aesthetics, build quality, and price point. South Coast Solar also installs Chargepoint EV chargers and Nest smart thermostats.

South Coast Solar was established in 2007 and has a main office in Louisiana and one in Columbia, SC. Since 2007, they have installed over 4,000 residential installations. They offer a 10-year workmanship warranty. They also offer an energy production guarantee for the first 10 years. If your installation produces less than 95% of their estimate, they’ll pay you double the current value of the electricity.

While other companies also install Sunpower panels, South Coast Solar’s 10-year workmanship warranty is far and away the best of them all.

Renu Energy Solutions: Best Warranty

Quick Look: 25-year workmanship guarantee, installed 1800 systems

Like South Coast Solar above, Renu Energy Solutions also installs premium Sunpower solar panels, but they also offer less expensive Hanwha panels. On top of that, they install energy storage systems from Tesla and sonnen, a well-known German battery maker.

What sets Renu apart from the competition though is their workmanship warranty. While others offer between 2 and 10 year warranties, Renu offers a full 25-year warranty for all work on your roof. In fact, Renu’s warranty is far-and-away the best we’ve seen in SC.

With just under 2,000 installations, the company doesn’t quite have the experience of the other two installers on our list. But as they are based in North Carolina and only install in the Carolinas, they’ve likely got heaps of experience installing in your area and will know the intricacies of the local utilities, building codes, and inspection requirements. All this ensures your installation will be up and running as fast as possible, with few hookups.

If you’re looking for long-term assurance your system will run well and without issues, Renu is a great option.

How to Choose a Solar Installer in South Carolina

Talking to multiple installers is the single most important aspect to choosing a solar company, but there are a few extra considerations.

Compare quotes

Getting estimates from multiple solar companies allows you to not only compare costs, but also equipment options and lifetime savings. Some installers offer high-efficiency equipment that can produce more energy but come at a higher upfront cost. Others will offer standard equipment that isn’t quite as efficient, but much less expensive. Talking to 3 or 4 installers allows you to compare these options to find the most cost-effective installation.

If you’re financing your installation via a loan, installers often work with different lenders, so getting estimates from multiple companies will help you find the best rates.

Licenses/accreditations

For roof-mounted installations, South Carolina requires installers to have a Residential Builders Specialty license with both Electrical and Roofing classifications.

Just because an installer is a licensed electrical and roofing contractor doesn’t necessarily mean they’re skilled in solar installations. Reading reviews, reading up on the installer, and discussing equipment and savings with them will all help you decide which company is best for you.

You can also look up any company’s license online at South Carolina’s Labor Licensing Regulation.

Workmanship Warranties

Workmanship warranties protect you against damage caused during the installation process or from faulty installation techniques. As such, it’s a crucial component to choosing your installer. We’ve seen workmanship warranties range from just 2 years up to 25 years, though most hover around 5 to 10 years in South Carolina.

Also be sure to ask about coverage for roof leaks – the most common problem for solar installations. We noticed one company (that we didn’t include here) advertise a 12-year workmanship warranty, but only a 5-year warranty for roof leaks, so don’t just assume your workmanship warranty covers roof leaks.

Financing Options in South Carolina

South Carolina homeowners can finance their installations in cash, loan, or via a solar lease.

Cash

If you can swing the upfront costs, paying for your installation in cash allows you to save the most money possible when installing solar. You don’t have any additional costs like interest rates or leasing fees, so your savings are just money in the pocket.

Since you’ll own the installation, you’ll be eligible for both the state and federal tax credits, which can lower your installation costs by 55%!

But with installation costs ranging from $12k to $30k, paying in cash isn’t necessarily easy for most of us.  If that’s the case for you, consider taking out a loan.

Loans

Loans offer the next best solution to cash. Of course, you’re now paying loan interest so your savings will be lower, but with South Carolina’s excellent tax credits (which you’re still eligible for), it’s still well worth it.

You can secure loan financing through your installer, your local credit union, and even your utility. Electric cooperative Santee Cooper for example offers homeowners low-interest loans for renewable energy projects (solar, solar hot water, biomass, and hydroelectric). Rates are variable and repayment is up to 10 years, with a max loan amount of $40,000.

Most installers also work with a handful of lenders that specialize in financing clean energy projects, so be sure to ask your potential installers about available rates.

You can also pay for your installation with a Home Equity Loan or HELOC, so reach out to a couple local credit unions or banks as well.

Securing the lowest interest rate will help you save the most money, so don’t just go with your installer’s lender. Talk to multiple lenders to see what interest rates and loan terms they offer.

Solar Leases

Solar leases work just like your car lease. You pay a monthly fee to the installation owner (typically the installer) and you get to use all the electricity the system produces.

Solar leases helped the solar industry grow like wildfire from 2008 to 2015, as homeowners could install solar with little money out of pocket. However, installation costs have dropped since then and more credit unions and specialty lenders are now offering solar loans, which generally provide the same benefits of leases (little upfront costs) but allow homeowners to save even more money, as there are less fees and hidden costs.

Overall, we recommend financing your installation in cash or via a loan, as your long-term savings will be much higher than with a lease. However, if you’re interested in solar leasing, the state of South Carolina publishes a list of all certified solar leasing companies in the state, including companies like Sunrun, Vivint, and NRG.

Financial Incentives, Rebates and Tax Credits

South Carolina homeowners have some excellent incentives to help drop installation costs, including two tax credits, a couple rebate programs, and REC programs.

Federal Tax Credit

With the federal Investment Tax Credit (or ITC), South Carolina homeowners can write off 30% of the total cost of the solar installation. It’s a dollar-for-dollar discount, so for an $18,000 installation you’d knock off $5,400 on next year’s taxes.

As a non-refundable credit the IRS will not cut you a check if your tax liability drops below $0, but you can claim portions over several years to receive the full benefit.

The full 30% credit expires at the end of 2019, at which point it drops to 26%. In 2021, it drops to 23%. It then fades away completely in 2022.

If you want to take advantage of all possible incentives, you better act fast. While some in Congress want to extend the credit, few in the solar industry think it will happen. Take advantage before the credit drops in value!

State Tax Credit

South Carolina offers a 25% personal income tax credit for all rooftop solar installations. Homeowners can claim a max of $3,500 per year, or 50% of your tax liability, whichever is less. You can carry forward any excess amount you’re not able to claim for up to 10 years.

Unlike the federal tax credit, the state credit only applies to the solar installation itself. Roofing costs, even if you replaced it to install your solar installation, don’t count towards the credit.

With both the federal and state tax credits, you’re looking at dropping your installation costs by 55%! That means you might pay $18,000 for your installation, but enjoy a $9,900 tax break in the first year alone.

Utility Rebates

Two utilities in South Carolina still offer rebates for installing solar.

Duke Energy Progress offers rebates for homeowners installing rooftop solar. However, participation is limited and Duke already has a waitlist for rebates. The utility pays out $1/watt for residential solar, so you’re looking at dropping your installation costs by a third, just with this rebate. If you sign up for this rebate program, you’re selling all your RECs to Duke, so you can’t sell them through the PaCE Program (see below).

Santee Cooper also offers an incredible rebate program for rooftop solar. The exact rebate amount depends on the total number of homeowners who claim the rebate in 2019. If there are less than 150 participants, you’ll get $1,200 per kW (up to 6 kW). Between 151 and 200 participants, it drops to $900 per kW. Above 200, you’ll get $600 per kW. If few people claim the rebate, you’ll get an extra $7,200 – that’s a huge chunk off your purchase price!

Performance-based Incentives

If you’re a customer of Duke Energy, Progress Energy, or South Carolina Electric & Gas, you might be eligible for incentives through the Palmetto Clean Energy (PaCE) Program. As a solar homeowner, Palmetto will pay you for all the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) your solar installation produces. (These are called ‘performance-based incentives’ because the incentive amount depends on your solar installation’s performance.)

After you sell your RECs to the utility, other non-solar homeowners then pay the utility a small premium each month to claim those credits as their own. It’s a way for homeowners who can’t install solar to get in on the renewable energy game. However, since they’ve purchased your RECs, all the bragging rights for producing clean energy go to them.

If you’re a member of an electric cooperative, you can take part too! Santee Cooper and the other electric coops of South Carolina offer a very similar program called SC Green Power. Contact your specific coop to learn the details.

State Solar Policy Information

In 2014, the South Carolina Public Utilities Commission, the government organization in charge of regulating utilities, decided that under statewide net-metering regulations, utilities must offer homeowners full retail-rate credits for any excess electricity sent to the grid. This is great news for rooftop solar, as full net metering is a basic cornerstone of solar savings.

All credits for excess generation roll over month to month. At the end of 12 months, your utility will pay you for any excess electricity you haven’t used at their avoided cost, which is typically about $0.04 per kWh.

The state also bars any utility from requiring homeowners to secure additional homeowners insurance beyond the statewide minimum of $100,000. However, an additional external safety disconnect switch (just another box on the side of your house) is required.

When South Carolina adopted these new net metering regulations, it also placed a cap that net metered solar can only account for 2% of total generation. In early 2019, that cap was almost met, but the state legislature passed a new regulation that lifted the cap until 2021. At that time, they also mandated the PUC to revisit net metering rates in 2021 and look for other options. It’s likely that all existing net metered customers will be grandfathered in, but that’s not certain.

Overall, South Carolina has adopted a great net metering program, but keep in mind it might all change in 2021. Electric cooperatives can, but aren’t required, to offer net metering. If you’re a coop customer, your installer will know exactly what type of net metering program they offer (if any).

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Image Source: Public Domain via Pixabay



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