Palmetto Sunrise: A solar boon for South Carolina?

The South Carolina state flag.

A disparate group of environmentalists and energy interests gathered yesterday to watch Gov. Nikki Haley ceremonially sign a bill that loosens restrictions on solar power in the Palmetto State.

The new law should ease some of the burdens for those who want to harness the sun's power, and the new industry could grow by leaps and bounds. Hurdles, however, remain. As Sammy Fretwell in The State reported: The solar legislation Haley signed is complicated, imperfect and won't solve all of the state's solar energy challenges. But boosters say it sets in motion plans to expand solar dramatically in the state.

Among other things, the new law will allow solar leasing, a way of financing solar panels that could help people more affordably install sun systems on their rooftops. That historically has been an obstacle for homeowners. State laws have in the past discouraged solar companies that provide affordable roof top panels from coming to South Carolina. Utilities in the past argued that such companies were, in effect, utilities and needed to go through the complicated process of becoming regulated by the S.C. Public Service Commission. One New England company that wanted to help churches, nonprofit groups and schools more easily afford solar panels left the state after SCE&G complained formally to the PSC.

People who have installed solar panels sometimes make so much energy, they sell it back to utilities. The PSC's decisions in the next year could lower or raise current prices due homeowners. That issue is a key reason that utilities agreed to the solar bill.

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