Written by Robert Leitch.
With winter giving way to spring in Ohio, we’re finally starting to see the sunshine again and spending more time outside. For the growing number of solar panel owners across the state, the reappearance of the sun goes far beyond fun and recreation. Ohio’s communities, businesses and families using the sun’s energy are dispelling the common misconception that solar will only work if you live in the desert or on a tropical island.
Third Sun Solar, based in Athens, Ohio helps people become energy independent by utilizing solar panel systems. The company works with its customers to determine each project’s specific solar needs and goals, and once these goals are defined, Third Sun designs and engineers the system to the customer’s specifications. Once the design is complete, the company installs the equipment and works directly with the local utility company to get the system up and running. Current commercial clients include The Ohio State University’s Stone Lab, the Athens County Public Library and Muskingum University.
As for how solar energy works when the sun isn’t shining, “People who have grid-tied systems receive a credit for their overproduction in the summer. This credit rolls forward and is applied when the system is not producing as much as you are using,” said Bailey Wagner, growth coordinator at Third Sun Solar. “On a yearly basis, most of our customers will build up a credit in the spring and summer that balances out the fall and winter.”
Two Ohio Third Frontier partners in Athens, TechGROWTH and the Ohio University Innovation Center, have helped Third Sun Solar establish many key parts of their business. TechGROWTH provided funding for marketing, helped the company hire a sales consultant, assisted in development of the Third Sun website and provided professional mentoring on a variety of projects. The Innovation Center housed Third Sun when the company was ready to rapidly expand. While at the Innovation Center, the company grew from two its two founders to more than 20 employees.
“The Innovation Center was a wonderful help for our new and growing business,” said Michelle Greenfield, CEO and founder of Third Sun Solar. “Beyond the space to grow, the Innovation Center provided critical networking, business support services and an inspiring entrepreneurial energy that helped advance our business.”
The future is looking bright for Third Sun Solar in Ohio and beyond. The cost of solar has dropped more than 50 percent in the past couple of years, making it more within reach for individuals and businesses. Currently, there is also a 30 percent federal tax credit for the cost of solar systems, and a USDA REAP grant for eligible farms and small businesses. Greenfield says as a result, the company is working on projects in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Indiana. Regardless of project location, Ohio is home for Third Sun Solar.
“We have a group of amazing employees based in Athens and Columbus, Ohio,” said Greenfield. “We are thrilled that we are able to find the kind of talent we need right here in the state.”