Making Sustainable Attainable

Solarize South Carolina puts down roots on James Island

By Charlie Morrison – Editor
“What solar panels?” commented a recent party guest to the home Craig Knowlton and wife Karin Olah. “I didn’t see any solar panels.” For Knowlton the observation, or rather lack thereof, was a revelation. As the Director of Business Development with Alder Energy Systems, a firm specializing in the installation and maintenance of turn-key solar panel energy systems for primarily residential uses, Knowlton believes in his product. For evidence, look no further than the 15-panel system that tightly hugs his own home’s south, street-side roof.

As a high-level professional in his field, Knowlton is well-versed in solar systems, their capabilities, and the financial savings, not to mention the energy they can generate. But to hear that the aesthetics of the panels actually blended in enough not be noticed, was a nice to hear.

Making Sustainable Attainable Photo - The Knowlton Family
Alder Energy Systems; Director of Business Development, Craig Knowlton with his wife Karin Olah and the couple’s daughters, Alison and Emma. 

Alder Energy Systems’ Director of Business Development Craig Knowlton installed his own, 15-panel solar panel system in November. Pictured with Craig are his wife, artist Karin Olah, and the couple’s two daughters, (from left) Alison and Emma.

And the timing couldn’t be better, as demand for solar energy systems will likely soon skyrocket in South Carolina. While the Palmetto State may have lagged behind the rest of the country when it comes to “alternative’ energy in the past, some forward-thinking legislation passed over the last half-decade, along with an innovative, new energy initiative announced just last week, has residents of SC poised to produce power of their own.

“North Carolina has the same sun, Georgia has the same sun … in the end it comes down to policy and how the respective state governments treat the issue,” says Ken Johnson, of the D.C.-based Solar Energy Industries Association. “It’s good to see South Carolina has done the right thing and offered the credit.”

Solarize South Carolina

At the meeting of the West Ashley Rotary last Thursday, a host of solar energy industry leaders introduced Solarize South Carolina, a partnership between national alternative energy-forward non-profit SmartPower, solar investment lender Dividend Solar, a firm who offers a $0 down loan product for the homeowners “going solar,” along with the State’s two biggest solar panel installers, Greenville based Sunstore Solar Energy Solutions, and Lowcountry headquartered Alder Energy Systems.

Q6A9373The award-winning “group buy” program ties together these key players along with the respective utility provider involved, in this case South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G), in a marriage that allows solar panel owners to produce energy of their own not only for their own consumption, but for them to pay back into the system. A solar panel system is an investment with proven returns: the bigger commitment one makes, the smaller the energy bill one gets.

8 years – the approximate time it takes a properly set up, assembled, light accessible solar panel system to pay for itself
55% – The total in Federal and State subsidies a homeowner can receive for installing solar panel energy systems at their homes (could end December, 2016)

Solarize hopes to triple the number of homes producing solar power over the next 20 months. At that time, a 30 percent Federal Energy Tax Credit could, at the end of 2016, expire. Its future would be uncertain.

The Time is Now

Making now the time to go solar also has much to do with what’s going on at the State level. Last year the State passed a measure mandating that South Carolina will reimburse 25 percent of all expenses on solar panel infrastructure installation, up to $3,500 in any given year, for up to a 10-year period.

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Solarize Charleston and residents hoping to go solar have the added advantage here in Charleston of working with a public utility that is ready and willing to work with other providers, integrating solar into the region’s energy mix.

In addition, the 2014 bill offering the 25 percent credit mandates that utility providers like SCE&G draw between one and two percent of the power they need from like systems. In short, they have to buy the power you produce.

The introduction of Solarize James Island into our community could be the most significant development in service provision and/or utilities in decades. While solar is certainly not for everybody, the availability of no money down loans, government tax exemptions, and decreased cost of infrastructure are all factors that, for once, favor the homeowner. Do yourself a favor and invite a professional to provide you a free estimate. They don’t even have to come out to your home.

Go to Solarize S.C.’s webpage at http://www.solarizesc.org or that of the Public Service Commission of South Carolina at http://www.psc.sc.gov for more information.

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