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Green Building News

South Carolina Lawmakers Pass Solar Bill

The measure will permit third-party ownership of photovoltaic arrays and orders regulators to look again at net-metering rates

Lawmakers in South Carolina have passed a measure allowing homeowners to lease solar panels, clearing the way for more residential PV installations in the state.

The South Carolina General Assembly has passed legislation that permits homeowners to lease photovoltaic (PV) equipment from third-party installers, loosening what PVSolarReport has called some of the most restrictive PV laws in the country.

The measure, which has been sent to the governor for a signature, establishes a legal basis for financing rooftop solar equipment through lease agreements, according to a report at Utilitydive.com, and follows lengthy negotiations involving solar advocates, utilities, solar installers, and others.

The opportunity to lease solar panels instead of having to buy them outright saves homeowners a hefty initial investment. Also, solar installers, such as SolarCity and SunPower, typically claim that homeowners will pay lower rates for power generated on their own roofs than they would through their utilities. Homeowners of leased systems aren’t responsible for maintenance.

Third-party funding of PV systems has “dramatically expanded” PV capacity wherever it has been available, Utilitydive.com said.

In addition to opening the door to leased systems, the bill maintains South Carolina’s current net-metering rules while requiring state regulators to take a closer look at the system with a “value-of-solar proceeding.” These hearings are aimed at setting a rate for electricity homeowners sell to the grid.

About 5% of South Carolina’s net electrical generation in 2013 came from renewable sources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Most of that, 59%, came from hydroelectric projects. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, South Carolina ranked 34th in the country for installed PV in November 2013 with 4.6 megawatts of capacity. That’s enough to power 410 homes.

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