Demand increases for alternative energy source
There has never been a better time to buy a solar generating system and reduce your dependence on the utility companies by becoming your own utility. Considering that energy costs are increasing at a rate of 3.5% per year, the failure of the VC Summer plant coupled with the increases that have been imposed on consumers to pay for it, now is the perfect time to consider solar. Prices have dropped 67 percent in the last five years and it is a boom period for the solar industry. New US solar installations represented 39 percent of all new electric capacity added to the grid in 2016.
The Solar Investment Tax Credit was extended for five years at the end of 2015, so homeowners and businesses can qualify to deduct 30 percent of the installed cost from their federal taxes. The state of South Carolina offers an additional the 25% tax credit, and there’s no upper limit on the prices for the qualifying panels. There is an additional 50% bonus depreciation is available for business owners.
Jim Woods, Product Manager, Clean Energy Products for Border States Electrical, serves on the Board with SCCEBA (South Carolina Clean Energy Business Alliance) and is a regular member of the SC Solar Council and SC Solar Business Alliance, cautions that the incentives for solar energy has created a “Gold Rush” mentality among solar companies in the state. Woods advises homeowners considering solar generating systems in South Carolina to do their due diligence and deal with local reputable companies.
Can solar work for you?
For an average household electric load of 600 kilowatt-hours per month, for example, a daily dose of five hours of direct sunlight and a four-kilowatt system will likely meet demand. For households with higher usage, especially in the South and West, bigger installations are the norm.
Thanks to Google Earth, solar installers usually know if a property has the right conditions; avoiding the fee for an onsite inspection. Houses with a southern orientation within 40 degrees of direct southern exposure are golden. Those with flat roofs work well because the panels can be tilted for maximum effect. Adjustable panels can also be adapted to the best angle per season. Panels can’t be in shade for a significant part of the day.
Rooftop installers can work around vent pipes, skylights and chimneys. If major obstructions are a problem, the American Solar Energy Society, suggests a ground-mounted array or solar pergola, a freestanding wooden frame to mount panels.
Determine if a state has net metering laws, which make it easy to sell excess power from a whole-home system back to the grid. Check for local tax subsidies on top of the federal 30 percent. The beauty of solar is that once the system is in place, operating costs are negligible. The lifespan of today’s panels is over three decades and the payback is just five to seven years.
Local businesses go solar
The Art of Dentistry is located in Irmo and has recently installed a solar system that not only provides energy needed for daily operations, but also produces financial savings and income through an incentive program sponsored by SCE&G. The system is generating more energy than the business uses. Energy bills are zero with a monthly credit of about $700, which is paid back to Wych each year for ten years.
Dr. Gregory J. Wych said, “Adding solar to our dental office was the best investment ever. Since the installation has been completed we have produced more energy than we’re using, thus our bills are zero, and since we are on a power purchase agreement we are actually earning dollars for what we are producing. The whole team at Palmetto SolarPros are for sure pros in this arena. I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else on this job. They were professional and did a beautiful job, delivered as promised.”
Marco Specialties, a local business supplying pinball machines, had a solar system installed on the roof of their commercial building. The owner says that the installation was efficient. “It is clean, attractive and the panels actually enhance the aesthetics of the building.” He says his roof is now “spitting out money.”
Both of the businesses above had their systems installed by a local family owned and operated company, Palmetto SolarPros. The company was founded by Tommy Wood, a mechanical engineer with 17 years’ experience installing solar thermal collectors.
Wood says that prospective solar customers should have a sense of urgency to take advantage of the Federal and State tax incentives.
For more information on Solar Energy panel installation and Palmetto SolarPros, visit www.PalmettoSolarPros.com.