About Solarize South Carolina

Frequently Asked Questions

A. Solarize South Carolina is a program that makes it easy and affordable for residents to go solar—that is, to convert sunlight into electricity that we can all use in our homes. Solarize South Carolina provides residents with an easy way to shop for solar, by providing a solar bid from a local, pre-screened solar installer. Solarize South Carolina gives homeowners access to significant savings on the cost of electricity for decades to come. The Solarize model was first introduced in Portland Oregon in 2009 and has since made it easy for homeowners across the country to go solar. Solarize South Carolina includes these key elements:

  1. Local leadership and support
  2. Volunteers and partnerships from local community groups
  3. Pre-screened, pre-selected local solar installers
  4. Flexible financing options that make solar affordable, including $0 down financing
  5. A 20-week campaign, with a clear end date

Combined, these elements give homeowners confidence to move forward. Solarize takes the worry out of decision making, by showcasing community support, creating awareness and outreach, teaming up with local trusted installers, educating residents about attractive financing, and encouraging them to act by creating a program deadline.

A. The most suitable location for a roof-mounted solar PV system is a south-facing roof with little to no shading from nearby trees, chimneys or other obstructions. Any shading on the system can reduce energy output, so it is important to assess the locations of current trees and buildings around your home as well as that of other obstructions that may exist around your home in the future. Advances in solar panel and inverter technologies can allow homes with east or west-facing roofs and moderate shading to benefit from solar PV as well. During a no-cost site visit to your home, an installer will evaluate your home’s solar potential and will let you know if there are any obstacles before you sign a contract. They will also calculate the size of the system that you will need based on your electricity needs.

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A. Yes, just not as much. Under an overcast sky, panels will produce less electricity than they produce on a clear, sunny day.

A. Without a battery backup, grid-tied solar PV systems will not operate when the power grid is down. This safety requirement, called “anti-islanding” allows utility linemen to safely repair power lines during a power outage. You may choose to add a battery backup to your solar system to keep the lights on during a blackout, although they cost between $5,000 and $15,000.

A. From the day you sign a contract with an installer, it can take between a few weeks to a few months before your solar PV system will be turned on. The physical installation of the solar system typically takes anywhere from two to three days, but the time it takes to order and receive equipment, secure permits or schedule your installation can vary. Once installed, systems typically will need to be inspected by the town and utility.

A. If you finance your system with a Dividend Solar EmpowerLoan, your installation includes maintenance, performance guarantees, warranty management, and system production monitoring. If your system is not performing as expected, a quality-focused installation partner will come out and fix your system at no additional cost.

A. Every home is different. As such, your system size will be determined by your roof space and electricity needs. The average residential solar system is approximately 7 kW and produces approximately 9,184 kWh per year, but this could be too big or too small for your home. If you use certain technologies that are highly dependent on electricity, such as an electric car or geothermal heating and cooling, you might require a larger system. Your installer will work with you to design a system with characteristics that will meet your specific needs.

A. A recent study from Berkeley Labs demonstrated that solar systems add to property values. This is due to the fact that unlike electricity rates, solar rates will never go up. Thus, a solar PV system insulates you from rising electricity rates. Once the system has paid for itself, the electricity it generates is absolutely free!

A. Your savings depend on the size of the system you choose, your annual electrical usage, electricity rates, and any financing option that you choose from your Solarize installer. Your Installer can also help you determine how much money you could save since electricity prices from the utility are expected to rise over time.

A. Typically, an electricity bill is comprised of charges from a variety of supplier services, mainly: generation services, delivery services, transmission charge, and distribution charge. For further reference, please go to your utility’s website and search for “average bill” in the “Rates” section.

A. Yes. You will receive a monthly bill from your utility company as you always have, but the amount owed will differ depending on your monthly electrical usage. Depending on how your system is sized, you may accrue credits in the more productive summer months, which through “net metering” can be carried over and used in the less productive winter months. Even if your system entirely offsets your electrical usage, there is still a flat monthly fee required, in order to be connected to the grid.

A. If you prefer to own your system directly and either purchase it outright or finance it via a loan, you should check with your insurance agent to find out whether your system will be covered under your existing policy.

A. The federal government provides an investment tax credit equal to 30% of your system’s total installed cost. This can be claimed on your 2015 tax return. This tax credit is set to be reduced to 10% at the beginning of 2017. Please consult with your tax advisor to verify how these credits apply to your personal taxes.

A: Yes! South Carolina has an attractive state tax credit which is equal to 25% of the cost of your system (on top of the 30% Federal incentive). In any given year, the maximum benefit a homeowner can take is either $3,500 or 50% of your tax liability for that year.

More Questions? Feel Free to Email shummelrajca@smartpower.org