The state legislature passed a bill this week that signals a win for rooftop solar in South Carolina! It’s called the SC Energy Freedom Act. The bill will allow the expansion of the solar market, both large scale and for residential installations.

Solar panels on custom spring island house
This house on Spring Island has a 10.50 kW solar array

In 2014, a state law passed that made South Carolina a viable market for solar power by enacting tax credits and net-metering requirements. To appease the power companies, the 2014 law included restrictions (or caps) on the amount of rooftop solar allowed in the service areas of SCE&G (now Dominion Energy) & Duke Power. These caps were reached this Spring. Without the bill that passed this week, the solar market would have collapsed in SC because net-metering would no longer have the same benefits.

What is Net-metering?

Net-metering is the process by which a home with rooftop solar sells excess energy to the utility company, and draws energy from the grid when the solar system is not producing energy (like at night). The customer will always have electricity, provided the grid is functioning properly. The new legislation requires that the utility companies buy power from customers producing excess energy at the same rate that they sell to consumers.

What about battery storage for solar energy?

Batteries like the Tesla Powerwall can be connected to solar panels to store excess energy. At times when the solar panels are not producing energy, the consumer can tap into the energy stored in the battery. These batteries are really cool, but they may not be practical for the average consumer. They are expensive and one battery probably does not have the capacity to power a whole house. The technology is rapidly advancing, and battery backup may soon be a more practical option. We have a number of clients who have installed solar connected batteries in order to keep essential appliances and lights on in the event of power failure. In our hurricane prone area, I think this approach is smart. Often, the days following a major storm are sunny, but it may take utility companies days to weeks to restore power. A house with a solar array + battery would be sitting pretty!

Two Tesla Powerwall2 batteries at a recent project
Two Tesla Powerwall2 batteries at a recent project

Net-metering is an essential piece of the growth of solar power in South Carolina. I congratulate the legislators that championed this bill. Alternative, renewable energy will continue to be a sound choice for South Carolinian’s; both for our wallets and for our environment!