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2019 Policy Grade


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Congratulations! You've found the ultimate guide to going solar in South Carolina

2019 Policy Grade


Avg. Savings/year


Your 2019 guide to getting solar panels for your home in South Carolina

This page is a complete guide to the complicated and sometimes confusing process of installing solar panels on your South Carolina home. Since there's a lot to consider, we've separated the page into sections to help you find what you are looking for. If you find this page useful, please share it with someone who might also find it interesting!

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** What's new for 2019 **

South Carolina is home to waterfalls, lakes, and the Blue Ridge mountains as well as amazing beaches and coastal resorts. The Palmetto State is also filled with historical sites dating back to the Civil War and the Revolution. Using clean energy will keep the waters clear and the skies blue. Read on to see what the state legislature has done to promote solar and other renewable power sources.

Important South Carolina solar news

As of early April, 2018, the state House of Representatives is on the cusp of approving H4421, a critical new net metering bill. This bill is vitally important to home solar owners in South Carolina, because it mandates that the utility companies credit excess solar generation at the full retail rate. At a time where South Carolinians pay some of the highest electricity bills of any state in the country, getting full credit for your solar energy is extremely important.

Within a very short time, the bill will likely be sent to the senate, where it must also meet approval before becoming law. Contact your state senator today to tell them to vote for H4421!

Questions? Our network of solar experts are on call to assist you. Simply sign up for personalized assistance on our special solar deals page. You can get discounted on-grid pricing as low as $4,000/kW! This is paired with the South Carolina solar incentives you see below.

The Solar Strategy section is focused on the 3 ways of paying for solar in South Carolina, so you can decide which is best for you. We've created a tool that asks you a few questions and recommends whether you should pursue a solar lease, loan, or outright purchase. Then, we provide detailed analysis of how each works.

The Policy Information section contains all our latest research on the rules set by lawmakers and the Public Utilities Commission, which determine how easy it is to go solar in South Carolina. These policies and rules govern everything from renewable energy mandates to interconnection, and have a huge effect on the viability of solar.

Finally, the Solar Incentives section includes information about money-back rebates and grants, tax credits, and tax exemptions for going solar in South Carolina.

Click any of the boxes below to go to that section of the page, or scroll down to read the page in order.

Your Solar Strategy in South Carolina

Figuring out the best way to go solar in South Carolina can be a little daunting. From loans and leases to power-purchase agreements, there are a lot of options out there. To help you pick the one that might be best, we've created the handy decision tool below.

We'll ask you a few simple questions about you and your home. Once you're done, we'll recommend a good option. Further down this page, we provide cost estimates and example return-on-investment calculations for all the various options:

How should you pay for solar?

Use our decision tool to find out!

How to pay for solar panels in South Carolina

The chart above shows the 25-year returns for an investment in solar whether you choose to purchase a system with cash or pay over time with a loan or lease. As you can see, the purchase option leads to the highest dollar-amount returns over time, but look a little closer. Taking a solar loan or HELOC (the orange bars) and paying for the system over time means you'll actually spend $0 of your own money over time, while reaping a big financial benefit in year 1.

That's because you take a loan for the system, but you still get all the benefits of paying up front. In South Carolina, that means a state tax credit equal to 25% of the total cost of your system—on top of a separate 30% federal tax credit. With those huge tax credits, you'll actually make money in the first year. And even though you'll be making loan payments over 15 years, the total cost will never exceed that first-year windfall, making this investment essentially free money for having home equity.

Lastly, take a look at the blue bars. They represent a solar Power-Purchase Agreement (PPA), which is also called third-party ownership. With a lease or PPA, you put $0 down on a rooftop solar system and purchase the energy generated by the system at a rate lower than what you had been paying the utility company. You accumulate savings greater savings each year because the PPA cost will rise by less than the electric company's annual rate hikes. Third-party ownership is an excellent option if you don't have any equity or cash to put down, and it still saves you money!

Read more below about each of three very good options for solar in South Carolina.

How much can you save with solar?

Find out

Option 1: Paying cash for solar

An outright purchase used to be the only way to get solar, and it's still the option that provides the "biggest" financial returns. The reason we put "biggest" in quotes here is because it's technically true—with rebates and tax credits, solar costs less than ever before, and the electricity savings in South Carolina are so good that a solar installation pays itself off in just a few short years. But if you're interested in solar as an investment, taking a loan to pay for the system is a better option.

With a loan, you can monthly payments instead of putting $11,650 down on a solar system, which means you save money on electricity as you pay down the cost of your panels. If you have equity in your home or can get a large loan with an interest rate of 4.5% or less, a loan is the option to go with. It's like being able to start a business that is sure to succeed, just by having a roof. Read about loans below.

If you've got cash and you prefer to pay up front, you'll have to plunk down $11,650, but tax breaks and energy savings will erase a bunch of that after just 1 year. Over 25 years, your system will have produced over $21,000 in income, after your system cost is paid back. The reason this works is that solar offsets your electricity costs—enough to save you $725 in year 1—and it just goes up from there. As the electric company raises rates, you save more and more, and more...

For our example, we've focused on South Carolinians who are served by Duke Energy Progress. That's because DEP offers rebates of $1 per kilowatt (kW) of solar panels. That's a sweet rebate, and it reduces your initial cost for a 5-kW system from $16,650 to just $11,650.

If you get service through South Carolina Electric & Gas instead of Duke, you don't get a rebate, but you do get performance payments, which will save you about $1,500 over the first 10 years!

Here’s how the numbers work for a 5-kW rooftop solar system in South Carolina:

  • Installing a typical 5-kW solar system should start at about $11,650 after the Duke Energy rebate. That's cheaper than solar has ever been, but it still might seem like a big investment. Don’t worry, because after tax breaks and energy savings, your first-year costs will be considerably less than that.
  • The Federal government offers a great income tax credit of 30% of system costs. That's $3,495 you won't be paying to Uncle Sam this year, and it brings your first-year investment down to $8,155.
  • Next, South Carolina offers its own amazing personal tax credit, that can get you up to 25% of the cost of your system back. The credit can be taken over 10 years, and it has a maximum of $3,500 or 50% of your tax burden in a year. Considering South Carolina's low income tax rate, we'll be conservative, and estimate a tax credit of $500 each year for 7 years. That brings you down to $7,455!
  • After the tax credit we subtract your first year’s energy savings, which we estimate to be $725. That reduces your cost after the first year to only $6,930. That's almost 60% off the price before rebate! Wow!
  • Those electricity savings and state tax credits will quickly make your money back, and your system will pay for itself in just 7 years. You'll see a total net profit of $21,027 by the end of your panels' 25-year warranty. The internal rate of return for this investment is an amazing 16.6%. That beats the stock market's traditional returns by a good 5%, and it's more reliable, too!
  • And here's a nice bonus to consider: your home's value just increased by more than $16,000, too (your expected electricity savings over 20 years).
  • In addition to all that cash (and home value), you’ve created some green for the earth as well by not using electricity from fossil fuels. It's like planting 113 trees a year, every year your solar power system is humming.
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in South Carolina. If you're ready for a custom quote for a solar panel system, our network of experts are on call to assist you. Simply sign up for personalized assistance on our special solar deals page.

Option 2: Using a loan to pay for solar

You don't need $15,000 sitting around to pay for solar. As long as you have equity in your home, you can still own solar panels and reap all the benefits. Heck, even if you do have the cash, getting a loan to pay for solar is by far the best option when it comes to percentage return on investment.

That’s because, in South Carolina, using a loan to pay for solar is like investing in a business that's sure to succeed, and also earns you a tax break. Wait... TWO tax breaks!. You'll come out thousands ahead this year, and you'll still see a handsome profit over the 25-year life of your system.

For our example, we've focused on people who are served by Duke Energy Progress, which offers a really nice rebate of $1/watt, based on the size of your system. Sorry SCE&G customers. There's no rebate program for you, but there are some decent performance payments! And no rebates doesn't mean solar isn't a good deal! It just means it'll cost you a little more...

A solar purchase like this will make sense for you if the following is true about you and your current situation:

  • You can qualify for a solar loan or home-equity line of credit (HELOC) for $11,650, with a fixed rate of 4.5% or lower and a 15-year repayment period. Don't be put off if you're offered a higher rate. It just means a tiny bit less of the thousands of dollars you'll make with solar.
  • You love making money without much risk.

Here’s how the numbers pencil out for a South Carolina homeowner who makes a solar purchase with a loan:

  • Installing a typical 5-kW solar system should start at about $11,650 after that Duke Energy Progress rebate we discussed above. That's how big your loan will need to be to cover it.
  • The electricity you'll save in the first year of operation would have cost $725, but your annual loan payments will be $1,034, meaning you would spend $309 on solar this year, but...
  • You'll also see two huge tax breaks! The Feds give you 30% of the cost of your system back as an income tax credit, which in this case means $3,495. South Carolina also offers a rebate of 25%, but the state's tax rate is lower, so you'll likely have to take the credit over a longer term. That's another $500 off this year, and for the next 4 years, too.
  • All those incentives mean you'll come out $3,686 ahead after year 1. Your loan payments will be about $26/month more than your energy bill savings, but that difference will get smaller as the utility company raises rates every year. And considering that big windfall in year 1, you'll never actually spend any of your own money on solar.
  • By the time you've paid off your loan in 2031, you'll be seeing yearly savings of about $1,100. After 25 years, your total profit will be $17,165!
  • On top of the green that will stay in your pocket, your system will mean green for the environment, too—101 trees-worth, every year!
Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in South Carolina. If you're ready for a custom quote for a solar loan, our network of experts are on call to assist you. Simply sign up for personalized assistance on our special solar deals page.

Option 3: Buying the electricity, not the panels with a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)

A PPA is a great way to go solar if you haven't got stacks of cash or oodles of equity in your home. It's possible to get solar panels for $0-down and see big savings over 20 years!

As for PPAs in South Carolina: the electricity costs here are pretty high—right around the national average. That means a PPA saves you money starting on day 1! For now, the electrciity you'll buy from a PPA will be around $617 per year, but the energy the panels make will save you $725 per year. That's $108 you get to keep in your pocket, just for saying yes to solar!

That might not sound like a huge amount of money right now, but as the utility company raises rates, you will start to see greater annual savings. Over 20 years, our estimate shows a total savings of $3,648. And the panels will be owned and maintained by the installation company, so all you have to do is brag to the Joneses down the street about your green habits!

Here's more about how a solar PPA works:

Keep in mind, the numbers above are based on an average home in South Carolina. If you're ready for a custom quote for a solar PPA, our network of experts are on call to assist you. Simply sign up for personalized assistance on our special solar deals page.

How much can you save with solar?

Find out

South Carolina Solar Policy Information

Ever wonder why solar seems to be everywhere in some states, but not in others? We did too.

State legislatures and public utilities commissions can enact rules to make solar power accessible for everyone. Favorable rules explain why some of the cloudiest states—New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, are doing so well with solar, and yet some of those with the most natural solar resources—like Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia—are doing so poorly.

Below is important information about the public policy, rules, and economic reasons that affect your ability to go solar here in South Carolina:


2% by 2021

Grade: F

South Carolina's Renewable Portfolio Standard grade

A Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires utilities in the state to eventually source at least a certain percentage of their electricity from clean, renewable sources like solar panels.

South Carolina’s RPS, passed just earlier this year, requires all utilities to produce a measly 2% of their aggregate capacity using renewable energy by 2021. The RPS divides the requirement into two sections: 1% of the capacity will be generated by facilities sized between 1 MW and 100 MW, while the remaining 1% will be generated by any facility below 1 MW. That ain’t much, but a mandate is a mandate.

We don’t want to knock South Carolina’s RPS too much, because we’ve seen some states with no RPS at all, but to be honest 2% really isn’t much of a number. Other states are aiming twenty times higher within the same timeframe. Additionally, the program lacks a solar carve out. More on that next.

A strong South Carolina RPS would be critical to strong renewable energy policy. Utility companies aren't really all that gung-ho about you producing your own power. After all, it costs them money when you use less of their electricity. They also don’t naturally want to give you big payments for energy you're feeding back into the grid. The main reason the utilities are aiding your transition to lower electric bills and offering you incentives to put solar on your roof is because the state forces them to. If the utilities don't hit their RPS numbers, they have to pay large fees back to the state.

What's an RPS? Your state legislature paves the way for strong solar energy incentives to flourish by setting standards for renewable energy generation within their territories. Those standards are called the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS). If utility companies do not meet these standards, they must pay alternative compliance fees directly to the state. Many utilities then determine the best ways to source their energy from renewable sources that are less expensive than this fee.

An RPS is a mandate that says "Hey utilities! Y'all now have to make a certain percentage of your electricity from renewable sources. If not, you'll have to pay us huge fines." The consequences are good, because utilities usually try to meet these RPS standards by creating solar power incentives for you, the homeowner. Read more about Renewable Portfolio Standards.

RPS solar carve out


Grade: F

South Carolina's Solar Carve-out grade

As mentioned above, South Carolina’s RPS lacks a solar carve out, or specified targets for solar production. If the RPS contained specific carve-outs for clean and efficient technologies like solar panels, or mandates for the environmentally necessary increases in distributed generation, you’d see even stronger incentives for residential solar power.

What's a solar set aside? A solar set aside guarantees a specific portion of the overall renewable energy mix generated comes from the sun. For those states with progressive standards, high alternative compliance payments, and clear solar carve outs, the faster those areas become ripe for solar.

Some states have higher alternative compliance fees than others, and some states have more progressive alternative energy standards and deadlines than others do.

For instance, New Jersey has an overall RPS of 22.5% by the year 2021. That requires local utilities to source 22.5% of their energy mix from renewable sources by the year 2021. Pretty good. However, New Jersey also has a specific solar set aside of 4.1% by 2028. That’s the type of firm commitment which really gets the industry rolling forward. No wonder why New Jersey is one of the hottest solar markets right now!

South Carolina Electricity Prices


Grade: C

South Carolina's Electricity cost grade

South Carolina homeowners pay an average of 13 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity. That’s actually a little lower than the national average of 13.6 cents, but here's the kicker: South Carolinians have some of the nation's highest electric bills, because we've gotta use so much AC in the summare and heat in the winter! But the good news is, though you're paying more now, you could be saving more soon, with solar panels!

And the vast majority ofl the electricity that currently (no pun intended) runs your house is produced by burning fossil fuels -- tons and tons of earth-killing fossil fuels. When the astronomical environmental costs start to mount, monthly electricity bills are inevitably going to rise as well. When that happens you’re going to feel pretty darn smart for making the early switch to producing your own clean, efficient solar power.

Why are electricity prices so important? Because that is what solar power is directly competing against. The cost to produce power with solar is relatively constant (of course how much sun hits your area has an effect), so if you are paying $0.40 per watt for power, then you make FOUR TIMES AS MUCH as the guy or girl paying $0.10 per watt electricity.

The caveat here is that if the $0.10 per watt person has a HUGE rebate, they may be better off than the $0.40 per watt person. Because of that, states without any renewable standards tend to be heavily reliant on cheap coal for electricity, and also have very low electricity prices. When electricity prices are artificially low, that hinders the ability of solar energy to achieve meaningful payback in the state.

South Carolina Net Metering

Statewide with caveats

Grade: B

South Carolina's Net Metering grade

Net Metering requires your utility to monitor how much energy your solar power system produces and how much energy you actually consume, and make sure you get credit for the surplus.

In April of 2014, South Carolina’s legislature mandated the development of new statewide net metering rules. These new rules state that residential net metering customers can install systems up to 20 kW in capacity and that these systems must be installed to meet all interconnection and safety standards. In turn, the utility is responsible for monitoring your production and crediting your surplus generation to you. In South Carolina, utilities must roll over your monthly excess generation to the next month and pay you for your annual excess at the end of the year.

That’s a pretty standard net metering program, but is lacking some important details. The committee is still working on generic rate and service charge policies for distributed generation customers. For the latest information, check out the Public Service Commission’s Docket 2014-246 E.

What is net metering? Net metering is the billing arrangement where you can sell excess electricity back to your utility for equal the amount you are charged to consume it. The more customer friendly net metering policies, the higher the grade.

The grade here specifically reflects individual solar system capacity, caps on program capacity limits, restrictions on “rollover” of kWh from one month to the next (yep just like cell phone minutes), metering issues (like charges for new meters), Renewable Energy Credit (REC) ownership, eligible customers and technology (the more renewables the better), being able to aggregate meters across the property for net metering, and safe harbor provisions to protect customers from solar tariff changes.

South Carolina Interconnection Rules


Grade: F

South Carolina's Interconnection Standards grade

Interconnection rules are a little technical, but they basically allow you to “plug in” to the electric grid with solar panels on your roof. The more complex, out of date, or nonsensical the state rules are for plugging into the grid, the lower the grade.

Specifically, the grade reflects what technologies are eligible, individual system capacity, removing interconnection process complexity for smaller systems, interconnection timelines and charges, engineering charges, prohibiting the requirement of unnecessary external disconnects, certification, spot interconnection vs. wide area interconnection, technical screens, friendliness of legalese, insurance requirements, dispute resolution, and rule coverage.

Solar Incentives in South Carolina

Next to high electricity prices and net metering, solar incentives have traditionally been the most important factor for whether home solar power makes financial sense in a state. In the past, some states with otherwise lousy policy had tremendous incentives that drove down the up-front cost of going solar so much that homeowners could save oodles of money even without net metering or a good RPS.

These days, the big incentive most people can get is the Federal Solar Tax Credit that earns you 30% of your costs back after just 1 year. State incentives play less of a role than in the past, but some really good ones are still out there, ready to help homeowners go solar and save money before you know it.

Let's see how South Carolina measures up:

South Carolina Solar Power Rebates

$1,000/kW Duke Energy Progress, $1,600/kW Santee Cooper

Grade: C

South Carolina's Solar Rebates grade

Only one South Carolina utility has their own rebate program: Santee Cooper. If your house is in their servcie area, you can get a rebate of $1,300 per kW, which is just under half off the average cost of installation! The Santee Cooper Home Solar Rebate can earn you up to $7,800 off the cost of a solar system (rebate applied up to 6-kW of solar panels).

Just to be clear, the "C" grade listed above is reflective of the relative lack of rebate progrtams in the state. If we were to award the Santee Cooper program with a grade, it would be "A+"! If your home is served by Santee Cooper, get a solar estimate today and find out how much you could save.

How do solar rebates work? Similar to getting a rebate card from your local big box store for a dishwasher purchase, state legislatures also provide rebates for solar panel purchases to spur on investment and create new jobs. If you purchase the solar panel system yourself, you qualify for this free cash, which many times is a lump payment back to you. Some solar installers like to take this amount directly off the total installed price, and they'll handle the paperwork for you to make things a lot less complex.

The availability of state and utility rebates were sourced from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Energy Efficiency. The better the rebates, the higher the grade.

South Carolina Solar Power Tax Credits

25% of costs, max of $3,500 or 50% of tax liability per year

Grade: B

South Carolina's Solar Tax Credits grade

While the state legislature has dropped the ball on the RPS, they’ve scored a slam dunk with South Carolina’s Solar Energy Tax Credit. When you install a residential solar power system here, you’re entitled to claim a state tax credit of 25% of the purchase and installation costs. That’s a whole lot of taxes you won’t be paying in April. The maximum credit that can be applied in a single tax year is $3,500 or 50% of your state tax liability, whichever is less. Unused credit may be carried forward for 10 years. Score for South Carolina!

Here's an example of how the South Carolina tax credit works: Say you're a married couple making $75,000/yr. Your income tax for 2018 will be $3,271, and half of that is $1,636. Your 5-kW solar system costs $16,250, meaning you're eligible for a state tax credit of $4,063 (25% of the cost). You take the max in year 1, $1,636, and assuming your income is roughly the same in year 2, another $1,636 in year 2. That leaves you with an unused tax credit of $791 that you can take in year 3.

Don't forget

: All solar installations are eligible for a 30% tax credit from the Feds as well. There's no cap on the federal tax credit and fortunately for South Carolina, having no state rebate to deduct means a larger tax credit coming your way. The two tax credits combined can wipe out 55% of the costs to install solar in just a few short years. Combined with electric bill savings, South Carolinians can see a payback time of just 7 years for a standard 5-kW solar system. Wow!

About state solar tax credits: State tax credits are not technically free money. However, they are 'credits' and not 'deductions' which means that if you have the tax appetite to take advantage of them, then they can be a 1-to-1 dollar amount off your taxes instead of a fraction of the cost of the system. So that means they can be an important factor to consider. In certain circumstances, state tax credits can provide a very powerful incentive for people to go solar.

(Keep in mind, we are not tax professionals and give no tax advice so please consult a professional before acting on anything we say related to taxes)

The availability of personal tax credits for solar energy were sourced from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Energy Efficiency. The higher the tax credit amount, the higher the grade.

Solar Power Performance Payments

$0.04/kwh - SCE&G only

Grade: D

South Carolina's Solar Performance Payments grade

Despite the lack of an RPS, there happens to be a pretty nice performance payment plan here—if you live in South Carolina Electric & Gas territory, that is...

Performance payments are a way to reward solar panel owners for producing clean energy. They are small payments made directly to you based on the number of kilowatt-hours (kWh) your system produces. In the case of the SCE&G Customer Scale Solar Program, that means 4 cents/kWh, or about $250 per year for a typical 5-kW solar system.

That's good money! Trouble is... we don't know how long it'll last. The incentive amount is scheduled to drop by a penny each time the state see a couple new megawatts (MW) of energy capacity installed. That could be a year, two years, or three years. Here's how the payment amounts change based on the total installed capacity:

  • 0 to 2.5 MW cumulative capacity: 4 cents per kilowatt hour
  • 2.5 to 5 MW cumulative capacity: 3 cents per kilowatt hour
  • 5 to 7 MW cumulative capacity: 2 cents per kilowatt hour
  • 7 to 9 MW cumulative capacity: 1 cent per kilowatt hour

Again, no one knows when those levels will be hit, but we've conservatively estimated it'll two or three years for each level. Over a time horizon of 9 years, we estimate the performance payments will put around $1,500 into the pocket of our example 5-kW system owner.

Now that's if you're served by SCE&G. If, instead, you're a Duke Energy Customer, you get a really sweet rebate program that'll reduce your up-front solar costs to the tune of $1,000/kW! Look above to find out more about it!

Explanation of performance payments: Performance payments represent a big chunk of the financial rationale for going solar, and in many instances they make your decision a wise one. For certain states, if you’ve got solar panels on your roof, not only will you be cutting your electric bill down to size, but you'll be getting paid additional cash from your utility company. Pretty awesome, huh? Not only are you generating electricity for yourself, freezing your own popsicles with sun, and feeling like you’re doing something smart for your children or any of the other 4 reasons people go solar, but you are getting PAID!

Utility companies are paying people with solar panels on their roofs because their states say they have to, otherwise they will pay a fee. Therefore, the payment amount to homeowners is typically a little bit less than the amount they would be billed for by the state. For states with these alternative compliance fees, Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) exchanges have popped up. In the above chart, we outlined an estimate of yearly payments a homeowner might expect from the utility company for the SREC credits from their solar energy system.

Expected SREC payments were calculated by using the latest trade values in the SRECtrade database. The availability of feed-in tariffs were sourced from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Energy Efficiency. The higher the expected monthly payments, the higher the grade.

We've got a great article if you like to read more about what SRECs are and how to earn them.

Property Tax Exemption


Grade: F

South Carolina's Solar Property Tax Exemptions grade

Unfortunately the lawmakers down in Columbia didn’t follow up that excellent tax credit with tax exemptions. Property tax exemptions have the potential to save you a lot of cash. When you install a solar power system, your home goes up in value. We’ll go over just how much in a minute, but we’re talking thousands, and usually double digits at that. Not paying property taxes on that value is like a gift that keeps on giving, and passing a statewide exemption for assessed home value from solar power systems would help you make the switch without ever taking a dime out of the state’s bank account. Sounds like a win-win to us.

About solar property tax exemptions: Property tax exemption status is a pretty big factor when putting together your investment considerations. Some argue that solar power adds approximately 20 times your annual electricity bill savings (if you are owning the system and not leasing). Other studies seem to indicate a home price premium about equal to the cost of installing the system, minus any incentives like the federal solar tax credit.

For many average-sized solar power systems on a house, that can mean adding $20,000 to your home value. And if you don't believe us, believe the bean counters: Many banks and solar financing companies now offer traditional style equity-based home loans for installing solar. An additional $20,000 in property tax basis in many states amounts to a big chunk of change owed back to the state. However, many states have complete exemptions from added taxes when you install solar on your home!

The availability of a property tax exemption for solar energy was sourced from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Energy Efficiency. Grades in this category are basically all-or-nothing. Either you got it or you don't. Thankfully, many states have "got it.".

Sales Tax Exemption


Grade: F

South Carolina's Solar Sales Tax Exemption grade

In addition to ongoing property tax exemptions, the sales taxes exemptions that we’ve seen in lots of other states would save you 6% on the cost of a solar power system here. Unfortunately, the equivalent sales taxes exemption that many states have passed is a big fat 0% of the way there. As in, there is no sales tax exemption for the purchase and installation of solar power systems here. That’s a real shame. Sales tax exemptions help the local solar industry in addition to the customer, so they’re a double win.

What's the deal with solar power sales tax exemptions? When states give you a sales tax break on solar, we notice. You should too. State sales tax exemption status for the purchase of solar energy systems were sourced from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Energy Efficiency. Sales tax exemptions, if present, were all 100%. A handful of states are completely exempt from sales tax regardless, and therefore received ‘A’ grades by default (OR, DE, MT, AK, and NH).

The consensus on South Carolina solar power rebates and incentives

Solar policy is a bit stop and go here. The remarkably low RPS continues to be a tremendous worry, as it can be blamed for the lack of state solar rebates and utility-based performance payments. In addition, the net metering policy (though improved) remains up in the air and the interconnection standards leave something to be desired. Despite the cracks in the foundation however, the combination of the PACE performance payments, a hearty state tax credit, and average energy prices drive initial costs to adequate levels, and payback timeframes to a good place. Given that 8 year payback timeframe, we would love to give The Palmetto State a solid “B.” Careful though; we can’t rest on those laurels here. With the remaining cracks in the foundation, one slip and solar policy can go backwards fast.

The not-so-hidden message is: “jump on those incentives quick!” The payback timeframe could soon be looking a lot more like that of a state that deserves that “D.”

59 thoughts on “2019 South Carolina Home Solar Incentives, Rebates, and Tax Credits

  1. Dave says:

    We had panels installed back in Dec. We’ve averaged around 1,200 Kw hrs of energy production a month since then. However, our electric bill through Santee Cooper has jumped by over $100 a month and they show our energy consumption as going up, not down! We can’t get a straight answer out of anyone what is going on. The only info I got from their customer service agent was that I earned a $12 credit last month, like that was somehow worth the increased bill. Anyone else run into this problem? Any suggestions on how to proceed? This can’t be the way this works.

  2. Bill Ruiz says:

    I was ready to invest in a 13.6KW system with batteries. I live in Blythewood. Our utility company is Fairfield Coop. My wife then informs me Fairfield will only allow a 6.5KW system to be installed. Is there an avenue I can use to get my huge 13K producer of glorious electricity? I really don’t care if they buy it back for pennies, I just hate the thought of them charging me for sun power

    1. Ben Zientara says:

      Hey Bill-

      Any word on why the size restriction? Some utilities and co-ops restrict system size to that which will produce as much electricity as you consume in an average year. If that’s the case, there isn’t much you can do except go completely off-grid, which presents its own problems. Unfortunately, Fairfield co-op gives precious little information about home solar on its website, so without deeper information all I can do is speculate. Best of luck!

  3. john says:

    Berkeley Electric in the Charleston area now charges you $1/day for your meter and $5/month for each kw of pv you have installed. They have made net metering cost prohibitive.

  4. Allen Draves says:

    It looks like the only way to make it with a solar installation in South Carolina is to live in a specific area. Apparently there are, at most, only 3 coops that offer net metering. By net metering I mean a program/system in which excess electricity produced by an individuals installation is able to be sold back to the coop. Power not used at that address is credited back to that address. This doesn’t seem to be a just system when only some state residents can benefit from net metering. I’m not certain but I believe that Santee Cooper is owned by the state of South Carolina. I don’t understand how some citizens can benefit from something produced by the state while others can’t.

  5. tony says:

    Hi, I am in the exploration stage of adding solar for my home and tie to the existing grid. I am on Santee elec co-op. Any one with advice and or cost analysis please contact me [email protected]

  6. Will says:

    We’re planning to move to South Carolina from FLA, because one of our family already lives in South Carolina for almost 2 years, Im studying solar & wind and came up that “average electricity South Carolina use is 1119 kwh a 5.2KW system is 707 kwh + a wind turbine produce 202 kwh, Sun(with luck) 8 hours, but average 5.5 hours, wind can produce 24 hours a day, already found a 1.7KW wind turbine, only a tower might cost extra, depend of the South Carolina local laws, and offcourse you lives in rural area hopefully i can place a 100ft wind turbine on a galvanize tower, with a Forklift battery type: 24-85-21 48volt(placed in a well ventilated shed on the property close to the house, that can store up to 39kwh(after 20 hours of charge)thats 3 days of running A/C day and night in case of outage, if i needed more solar i will get it later but first start with 5.2KW system

  7. Kelly Gloger says:

    Are the Duke $1/watt incentives for residential PV systems taxed by the IRS?

    1. Ben Zientara says:

      Nope! Just like a rebate for an energy-efficient appliance, the Duke rebates reduce the price you actually pay for a solar system, as long it’s installed by a NABCEP-certified solar company. It’s not like getting a payment—it’s just money you didn’t spend.

  8. Mike says:

    sce&g for example has 2 programs. net metering and net metering plus. net metering plus is a pbi (performance based incentive). current net metering program credits you current kwh rate for every kwh you produce. this is counted against your utility bill. net metering plus program gives you extra couple cents per kwh produced. It is a contract that lasts for several years. residential solar systems although are capped at a certain kw size for production. I know quite a great deal about all of these programs inside and out. please contact me for questions. thanks

  9. Mike says:

    Can anyone tell me how net metering credits are valued for investor-owned utilities in SC? It seems that given the poor score credits might be valued at wholesale rates or less. Also, is solar leasing outright illegal, or is there some other reason this is labeled as a cash purchase state? Thanks!

  10. Anonymous says:

    we are the very first company to offer whole sale solar farming leasing and installation as well as of grid living email me for further inquiries we are state wide.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hi, Wondering if 1.5 acres in Tigerville woodland is too small to lease for solar panels or whatever product would be most helpful? Thank you, Dave

  12. Anonymous says:

    Hi I am part of partnership who owns a large tract of land in Greenville looking to find out if it would worth our wild to create a large solar farm on our propertry. We are looking for any and all options. Please feel free to contact me anytime.

  13. William C. suber says:

    I am looking for information about leasing property to the local utility company to build a solar farm on five acres of my land and give me free electricity and a stipend for the use of the land.

  14. Anonymous says:

    i just went grid tie in Ladson with very little hassle,6kw installed
    myself-also pulled my own permit.

    1. Cryste says:

      I’d love to hear the details on your DIY install and cost. [email protected]

    2. Gil says:

      Could you email me, I would like to ask you a few question concerning your system. Thank you. [email protected]

  15. Maria says:

    Any recommendation on any decent company that installs… Or can you tell me what to look for when shopping for solar power company…

    1. Ralph says:

      yes visit

      is RC Construction Solar in Greer SC

  16. mark joe says:

    Hi everybody,
    Our factory is an original manufacturer of solar water heaters,especially the vacuum tube solar water heaters which have good quality,mature technology and low cost.
    If you are interested in them, please email or visit our website.
    Best regards,
    mark joe
    Email:[email protected]

  17. Paul says:

    We’ve lived in SC since 2006 and we recently moved to the Greenville area from Rock Hill. I was shocked to see the 13.28 cents/kWh rate charged by Blue Ridge Co-op. Duke was charging us around 8 cents/kWh in RH. Our current home is all electric and the bill is atrocious between $200-$400! I began researching alternative power generation within a couple months of moving here. My research has shown that SC currently has a DISMAL program for Net Metering and grid interconnection and has made very little positive changes to promote renewable energy production. The state power grid is unbelievably complex and proper oversight is almost non-existent. It’s as if the power companies get to establish everything in their favor where distributed generators (local homeowners and business producing green energy) get almost NOTHING in return. Yay…we barely get to produce enough power to offset our own usage IF we make it through all the Net Metering application fees and hoops. Then, after investing thousands of dollars in our systems, THEY get to keep the annual excess for FREE and then bill our neighbors for it. Yippee skippee…that sounds fair, right?

    The FACT is, SC is almost dead LAST in the nation when it comes to promoting distributed renewable energy generation. It’s perfectly CRYSTAL CLEAR that someone is afraid of losing a buck or two if too many residents actually decide to put in profit-generating solar PV systems. They’ve self-servingly structured the Net Metering/Interconnection rules to protect THEIR interests…and not for the good of the people of this beautiful state. Yep, the good ole boys are alive and in command.

    Here’s another angle that I haven’t seen anyone articulate. The DIY folks are really screwed when it comes to building an expandable, modular PV system. The guy who is able to shell out $20k or more in one shot for a robust solar PV system with all the nice inverters and battery backup capability only has to pay a one-time $100 application fee to join the BREC Net Metering program (others are about the same). But the DIY people have to pay $100 and REAPPLY every time they make a major upgrade to their system. If you try to incrementally upgrade your system using the savings you realize as you go along, they make you PAY. Just yet another form of hoop-jumping and road-blocking that the good ole boys have constructed to impede the progress towards renewable, clean energy. Something has to GIVE. Residents and businesses MUST be allowed to show PROFIT for excess power generation and MUST be allowed to ACHIEVE excess generation if we ever hope to reduce our use of fossil fuels and dangerous nuclear power.

    Ok, now for my FINAL rant… In light of the Fukushima disaster (and NO…we’re STILL not out of the woods yet on that one!) and all the other past nuclear tragedies, did you know that the technology exists and is already in use to harvest solar energy on a 24/7 usable basis? Yes, they are doing this very nicely over in Seville, Spain at the Gemasolar Power plant run by Torresol Energy ( Gemasolar is a solar heliostat farm that reflects light from a vast circular array of focused mirror collectors onto a central thermal collection tower. The focused solar radiation heats up molten salts (up to 565C) which are used to create steam to run a traditional turbine. Excess molten salts collected during the day are stored in a tank for use at night. The plant can produce peak output for up to 15 hours with zero sun!! It is amazing and we need it HERE…we do NOT need another single NUKE plant or we’re going to kill this planet and everyone on it!

    See Gemasolar in Seville, Spain

    1. Gil says:

      Hello Paul, I agree with you 100% I would like to correspond with you if you’re interested. I am involved in S.C. Solar PV implementation. I’d like to know what’s happened since your comment and if you would like to help increase awareness? Thanks


  18. charlottetroy says:

    I would like to have more info on solar power. I HAVE A SMALL BUSINESS AND THE elecrical bill is above $1000 per month.
    Would appreciate someone getting back to me. Thanks
    [email protected]
    atten: Charlotte

    1. Dave Llorens says:

      Wow! Charlotte, please sign up here and someone should give you a buzz and sort you out.

  19. Todd Wright says:

    I am remodeling a 1200sq ft home with a 1200sq ft basement. I lived in Italy for 4 years and they both heated and cool their homes using pex tubing with water and either a tankless water heater or solar water heater to warm the water under the flooring system. In the summer the water heater is by-passed and routed under ground to a “loop” that was either built into the foundation or underground in the yard. The water is circulated using a small pump which could be powered via solar. If anyone is interested in seeing the system after it is installed and functional let me know I would be happy to share information. [email protected] (please no spam)
    Todd Wright

  20. Mary says:

    I live in a 28×72 mobile home and my electric bill runs 120 – 200 dollars/ month; we are very conservative with usage. However, we are considering solar power. Will it benefit us to do so.

  21. K McLeod says:

    Shealy Electrical Wholesalers will be hosting a free training class sponsored by SolarWorld on their Sunkits
    Date: Wednesday, October 12th
    Time: 9:00am to 12:00pm EST
    Location: 120 Saxe Gotha Road West Columbia, SC 29172, Corp Headquaters Training Room
    Presenters: Roger Locke, Michael Mularski & Randy Castellanos
    please feel free to contact me for more information and for registration information

  22. jenn says:

    i live in a mobile home my power bill is around 250 to 400 dollars very month i know i need a new a/c but im considering getting solar panels can anyone give me advice is this a good idea or just stick with paying the power co?

  23. Danny says:

    Will Santee Electric/Santee Cooper buy the power you generate at your home from you? If so, what do they pay per kwh you generate? Wholesale, off peak or other? I am planning on generating power with used/treated cooking oil and also solar. Wanting to sell power back to offset/cover my electric bill. I need to find out if I can tie directly back into the grid and if Santee will purchase the power? Also, if I generate more than I use can I sell for a profit? I need to find out what the requirements and specs are to tie the system into the grid? Do I have to furnish all the equipment, inverter/meter/panels etc? I can’t seem to find out much about Santee’s buy-back program if in fact one does exist? I have been an Industrial Electrician most all my life and can build my own solar panels/generating system myself. I just need to find out what the specifications/requirements of the system. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Please email at ([email protected]) Thanks, Danny

  24. David Witter says:

    All of the above just got South Carolina a score of 7 out of 100 on our report card. North Carolina scored 80 and New Jersey had the highest score. Alaska was lowest with a score of 6. We are blessed with a lot more sun than Alaska. If you missed this report, see this website for details.

  25. Gil Lastrapes says:

    The cost of a Photovoltaic Array has declined considerably over the past few years. Most systems are called grid tied and they work pretty much the same. Your PV system generates power that is sold to your power provider thus you are in a sense building a savings account against future power usages ( charges ). With current tax credits, incentives and rebates, it is well with in reason to see a return on investment with in 6-10 years. It is well within most home owners reach to obtain and maintain a solar array on their rooftop or via poll mounted system. I suggest you ( readers ) consider the advantages of a residential and or commercial photovoltaic array. I can assure you the cost versus benefits well out weights the investment. I’m not the first to comment on South Carolina’s less then front line approach to Green Energy…But we seem to be experiencing some positive changes. It is up to us to move them in the right direction. South Carolina Goes Green… if we do our part too!

  26. Robert Peterson says:

    I am looking to get in to business dealing/installing solar energy. Does anyone have any tips or any knowledge they could share as to help me get started? Training, Franchises, and Cost?

  27. Eloise Bradham says:

    I live on Sullivans Island and would like to install a rooftop PV system, still with a grid tie-in. Is there anyone in SC who has experience with this? Hurricanes in the past were a danger to removing solar panels but it is my understanding that they are lighter now. I would appreciate information to begin. Thanks.

    1. Dave Llorens says:

      Hi Eloise, please give our service a try here

  28. Chuck Hembree says:

    I own and operate a machine shop here between Greenville and Spartanburg South Carolina. My work is very slow at this time and I am trying my best to find out how to machine & build stuff for the solar community. I’m a great machinist but piss poor salesmen. LOL.,Thanks for any help.

  29. C G says:

    I heard a story about a retired woman who installed PV solar with the expectation that her electric bill would go down by 90% with a 10 year payback. After paying for the system and using the system her bill has only gone down by 30% meaning payback will never come in her lifetime. I am very concerned about what is being sold, how well it is understood and how many are taking advantage of consumers with these systems. I am all for solar. Wind is horrific choice as is biofuel. I like the idea of energy efficient homes with geothermal combined with solar in the right regions.

  30. Ward Johnson says:

    The South Carolina solar energy tax credit is 25% (30% for 2009) of the total cost of the installation. However the actual tax credit you can take for a given tax year is limited to $3500, but not to exceed 50% of your total tax liability for that year. IMPORTANT to note though is that any unused portion of the total tax credit can be carried over for up to 10 years with the same rules, i.e. each year the tax credit you can take on your tax return is limited it $3500 but not to exceed 50% of your tax liability for that tax year. See SC TC-38 for exactly how the math works

  31. Mark Coto says:

    I’m confused. Is the tax credit $3,500 per year or 50% of tax, whichever is less or is it maxed at $3,500 per year for 10 years. The comment posted by Mr Ron Sebeczek on Nov 20, 2008 implies the later. The link was not definative. If I read it correctly, it was $3,500, period.

  32. Peter says:

    I am interested in replacing my utility with Solar power. Would be interested in getting some names of companies that i could talk to.

  33. Clifford says:

    I would love to know my neighborhoods total electric footprint. Is there any way other than estimation to get solid numbers for a specific area? I think that breaking down local sectors for energy consumption would be very helpful knowledge.

  34. Jan says:

    keep in mind with solar you’ll never have to depend on a utility company again.
    That for me is the number one reason
    I choose solar. Freedom from rate spikes
    and knowing if there is a shortage or other problem I’ll always have the sun.

  35. Erika Myers says:

    I see there are a lot of questions about solar energy from the posts. I encourage you to check out the SC Solar Council, which is the South Carolina Chapter of the American Solar Energy Society – The purpose of this organization is to educate and advocate for solar energy within our state. We meet quarterly and have an annual workshop series/solar tour around the state. During the month of September we will be having residential solar workshops in Charleston, Greenville, Columbia, and Conway. On October 3rd we will have solar tours in those same areas where you can see an installation up close and personal. Also, in 2009 the SC State Government has increased the state solar tax credit from 25% to 30%. Check out TC-38 (tax form for credit) at If you still have questions please feel to contact me at the SC Energy Office.

  36. J.Byers says:

    If you think a 19 year byback ob a $50,000 investment is good , then I have some swampland I’d like to sell you.

    1. Sean T says:


      good to see SC schools still cranking out morons.

  37. Jeanne Velie says:

    I am looking to find accurate information on switching over to solar for both my business and home. I have not had much success finding information that is helpful and find it all very frustration. Your help would be much appreciated.

  38. rich w says:

    I have been involved in the electrical and energy industry for over 25 years in SC. The problem for solar electric is the cost of the cells. Until the price comes down, and the incentives go up, little will change. In Germany, any consumer – business or homeowner – who installs solar electic is guaranteed a fixed electric rate for as long as they own/use the panels. PLUS, if they connect to the grid, they guarantee to be paid excess electric, which goes back on the grid, at the prevailing current rate. What that means is they all put in extra panels (with low interest monies earmarked for the program) and sell back power each month on the grid. The extra power “pays” for the interest and thus they owner has NO electric bill – ever! As rate continue to climb, the owner ends up making income each month.
    Wind power for SC is not practical. The cost of a turbine, with our wind potential profile, will never allow a payback. Wind turbines require MUCH maintenance and have a useful life of only 10-20 years, thus no payback (as long as electric rates remain low). Wave power is promising and can be done with limited geographic “damage” to the SC coast. THE answer will remain Nuclear, although the use of coal is MUCH greater than Nuclear over the next 20 years. The saddest thing is that the average person cannot discern the truth about electrical power and the politicians are truly not intelligent enough – or honest enough – to effect a change. And finally, the amount of money a homeowner would spend on solar electric – spend a FRACTION of that cost on improving the energy “envelope” of your house (i.e. overly insulate, seal leaks, high eff AC, etc) and the paybacks are immediate and last a lifetime.

    1. mic says:

      The Chinese and Taiwan and soon Mexico and Ghana cell cheap cells over the web!

  39. Adrian Day says:

    I am leaving Washington, DC and will be moving to Columbia, SC sometime this coming spring. I am looking for work in the solar/wind industry. Can anyone help me find companies to interview with? Thank you all, my email is [email protected].

  40. phil shipley says:

    i have a company selling and installing solar water heating systems in the bluffton, hilton head, and savannah area. the problem i am running into are gated communities. their covenents say nothing shall be mounted on roofs. when approached about solar panels they go (duh, what do we do). they have never been approached about solar so they just ignore the idea. what do we do? when are getting a ruling like the fcc for sattelite dishes where they cannot deny someone solar panels

  41. Peter Karns says:

    It is getting better. The Federal tax rebate for residential is no longer capped @ $2000. It is now 30% of system cost. There are also many grants and rebates available depending upon your situation. If we all chip in, solar can make a difference.

  42. Ron Sebeczek says:

    The solar rebates for South Carolina is 25% of the cost up to $35,000 with the max each year for 10 years is $3,500.

  43. Jon Bayer says:

    Is there a program for tall buildings. I live in a four building, four story Villa. Is there something for this type of building? Our current electric bill is $26,000 for this past year, but rates are projected to rise by 30% I believe on Hilton Head. Thanks for your help.

  44. Keith Hutcheson says:

    It’s very disappointing to see states such as SC do next to nothing to encourage people to use renewable sources of energy. $50,000 gets you a tax credit of about 10%? Not very generous… But, the state will give hundreds of millions in tax breaks to corporations for a whole host of other things. Once again, it proves that SC as well as other states don’t “really” want to make a difference.

  45. David Llorens says:

    Hi Carol, I’d need to know more information. Please email me directly and maybe I can answer your questions.

  46. carol says:

    I have an 1,000 sq ft home ranch. I have always been interested in solar heating and cooling, only recently have I been able to find out a little more about it. From the quote about the price, how does that work? There must be something smaller and less expensive for a small home?

  47. adub says:

    Renewable resources are the wave of the future, we are living in history right now. We can change things right now, we have the power to do it. The question is are we going to change? There is alot more involved than just swirly light bulbs and solar panels. It’s a complete economic lifestyle change. We can do this, with the right educating, commitment, and working together. Solar panels is a great start. Think smater, think for the Earth.

  48. Larry Grant says:

    I am a 59 year old male who has been around the world a few times with the U.S. AIR fORCE. It does not supprise me that our Goverment(Gov.) is still in the anchient ages. It seems that someone would be bright enough to put in some types of reliefs to the South Carolina People. Solor power is clean and effeciant for the earth, what is our (Gov.)doing. I am also a Disabled Vetran and I have done enough damage to the earth, now I am trying to help clean it up.

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