Solar energy is taking off in the US. In 2019, the solar industry will likely surpass 2 million residential rooftops with solar panels installed nationwide. Some states and cities are further along in the adoption of solar energy than others, while others are new markets poised to become leaders in future years. To breakdown the best cities and states for solar in 2019, we leveraged our own data as well as the recently released Shining Cities 2019 report from Environment America.
In this week’s Solar News Roundup, Vermont utility Green Mountain Power reports that their virtual power plant program saved half a million dollars during the recent heatwave, and Duke Energy introduces a community solar program available to South Carolina customers.
The U.S. has witnessed remarkable solar growth over the past decade and South Carolina, known for its beautiful beach weather, is a great state for solar. Year-round sunshine and strong state solar incentives have resulted in 143.9 MW of solar installation to date powering 16,000 homes. Retailers in the state such as Boeing and Target have also gone solar by installing 2 MW of solar capacity. Columbia’s location and below average prices make it a great place for homeowners to install solar panel systems. In this article we’ll explain why Columbia has become a top spot for solar power and what Columbia homeowners can do to maximize their solar savings.
How much do solar panels cost in Columbia?
As of mid-2017, the average price for solar panels in Columbia was $3.27 per watt. Thus, since the typical system size in the U.S. is 5 kilowatts (5,000 watts), the average cost of a solar panel system in Columbia is $16,350 before any rebates or incentives.
While this price is low for the overall state of South Carolina, it is also very competitive in terms of the national average. Prices for solar panel systems have dropped by over 55% in South Carolina over the past 5 years and homeowners are taking notice. Check out this comparison table of Columbia, the state, and U.S. average pricing for various system sizes:
Solar pricing table: Columbia compared to South Carolina and U.S. average costs
|System size||National average cost|
|State average cost|
| Columbia average cost|
The above table, which uses pricing data from solar quotes received by homeowners on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace over the last 12 months, offers a comparison of prices nationwide, in South Carolina, and Columbia for solar energy systems. As the data illustrates, typical solar prices in Columbia, South Carolina are significantly lower than the rest of the country.
When looking at the solar industry as a whole, it’s well known that South Carolina is one of the most affordable and pragmatic places to install solar. But when you zero in on Columbia’s market and compare it to the rest of the country, the advantage for homeowners is even clearer. The good news for most South Carolina homeowners is that these low costs do not even incorporate the added benefit of net metering, offered throughout the Palmetto State.
South Carolina net metering and other incentives
Like many other states, South Carolina’s net metering program allows homeowners with solar panel systems to bank credits for the excess electricity generated by their system. When a homeowner uses more power than their solar panel system produces, these banked credits can be applied to their electric bill to make up the difference.
In addition, South Carolina’s state tax credit for solar energy allows residents to claim 25 percent of their solar costs as a tax credit. The credit is good for ten years, so the full value can be used by homeowners even if they do not pay enough in yearly taxes to receive the full value of the credit as a rebate in one year.
Utilities in the state also offer localized solar power incentives for homeowners. Duke Energy Progress offers a $1.00 rebate for every watt (W) of solar power installed on a home or business, and Santee Cooper has a rebate of $1.30/W of solar energy installed (up to $5,200). South Carolina Electric & Gas offers a payment program that reduces in value as more solar power is installed in the state. Depending on the program stage, homeowners are eligible for a payment of anywhere from $0.01 to $0.04 per kWh of energy your panels produce.
How Columbia homeowners can save big with solar
Though Columbia residents will see some of the cheapest solar prices in the country with continued cost declines expected over the next five years, low prices aren’t necessarily the biggest selling point. When it comes to going solar, the long term ROI and savings from avoided bill payments is often the biggest deciding factor – and the figures can be staggering even in states where utility rates are reasonable.
In 2017, solar quotes received by Columbia homeowners yielded 20-year savings estimates of over $71,655 on average. Checkout the breakdown of average net savings by solar system size:
Columbia net 20-year savings from solar
|System size||Average solar savings over 20 years|
Three tips for solar shoppers in Columbia, SC
Homeowners who get multiple quotes save 10% or more
As with any big ticket purchase, shopping for a solar panel installation takes a lot of research and consideration, including a thorough review of the companies in your area. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recommended that consumers compare as many solar options as possible to avoid paying inflated prices offered by the large installers in the solar industry.
To find the smaller contractors that typically offer lower prices, you’ll need to use an installer network like EnergySage. You can receive free quotes from vetted installers local to you when you register your property on our Solar Marketplace – homeowners who get 3 or more quotes can save thousands on their solar panel installation.
The biggest installers typically don’t offer the best price
The bigger isn’t always better mantra is one of the main reasons we strongly encourage homeowners to consider all of their solar options, not just the brands large enough to pay for the most advertising. A recent report by the U.S. government found that large installers are $2,000 to $5,000 more expensive than small solar companies. If you have offers from some of the big installers in solar, make sure you compare those bids with quotes from local installers to ensure you don’t overpay for solar.
Comparing all your equipment options is just as important
National-scale installers don’t just offer higher prices – they also tend to have fewer solar equipment options, which can have a significant impact on your system’s electricity production. By collecting a diverse array of solar bids, you can compare costs and savings based on the different equipment packages available to you.
There are multiple variables to consider when seeking out the best solar panels on the market. While certain panels will have higher efficiency ratings than others, investing in top-of-the-line solar equipment doesn’t always result in higher savings. The only way to find the “sweet spot” for your property is to evaluate quotes with varying equipment and financing offers.
For any homeowner in the early stage of shopping for solar that would just like a ballpark estimate for an installation, try our Solar Calculator that offers up front cost and long term savings estimates based on your location and roof type. For those looking to get quotes from local Columbia contractors today, check out our quote comparison platform.