At Third Sun Solar, we make it our business to keep up with industry developments and keep you informed of the state of the art in solar. You can click the COMMENTS link below each story to post a comment or add your insights.


Solar Myth Busting: Too Much Snow for Solar

Myths get started all the time as we try to understand something complicated. We make up a story as an explanation, and the more times we say it and share it, the more that myth sounds like truth. So, we are going to bust some myths by sharing the simple facts about solar. This doesn’t have to be complicated and these myths are no longer necessary to get solar.

Myth: There’s too much snow for solar in the Midwest

Fact: Solar panels still work in snowy parts of the country and in some situations can work more efficiently that during summer months.

It’s true that when your solar panels are completely snow-covered, they will only be able to generate a portion of their typical energy output because less sunlight is able to pass thru the snow cover.

That being said, this is nothing to be concerned about because:

  • Solar creates more efficient energy at cooler temperatures.
  • The sun will warm up the dark solar panels and the snow will quickly melt and/or slide off the smooth surface, so no need to clear the snow off yourself.
  • Even in the dead of winter, solar panels give off some small amount of heat, which can prevent snow from sticking in the first place.
  • In working with Third Sun Solar experts in the design of the array, the shorter days, weather, and less direct sunlight is taken into account to optimize your system. Net-metering will allow you to continue receiving electricity when your array produces less.
  • As a percentage of overall yearly production the loss from some snow is very small.
  • When snow is on the ground and the panels are clear, the snowy surface basically acts as a mirror and in many cases, you end up with a small boost because of the reflection off the snow.
  • Snow sliding off panels as it melts simultaneously cleans them.

We recommend not trying to clear the solar panels. Getting onto a roof in inclement weather is dangerous and using any type of tool on the panels themselves can damage the panels.

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3 Solar Power Predictions for 2016

Welcome 2016

Quite a lot happened in 2015 that will bring improvements to our homes and environment. Now that 2016 is here, we wanted to make some solar power predictions around what we think is in store for the Midwest.

1 – More homeowners will go solar. The renewal of the ITC will allow solar installations in the Midwest to catch up to what has been going on in the coastal states. More and more homeowners will turn to solar this year as they watch their electricity bills increase due to rising costs of fossil fuels and rate hikes approved by PUCO.

2 – Storage is going to be talked about more than installed this year. We don’t think 2016 is the year for energy storage, although it will start creeping more and more into the media. We’ve already seen the excitement building around energy storage prototypes, but in the Midwest, we think it will be a few years away until energy storage provides financial benefits.

3 – Solar installation prices will continue to drop, although only slightly. PV modules have already seen significant price cuts over the last few years, so any future drops in price are more likely to come from installation innovations. These types of efficiency changes are only likely to result in small cost cuts and not on the scale as has been witnessed one the last few years.

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Top 5 Solar News Stories from 2015

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2015, A Landmark Year for Solar

As we reflect on 2015, it seems likely that it will be a year remembered for landmark actions taken in defense of the planet. The Clean Power Plan passed, the ITC was extended, and a historic international agreement was made in Paris at the COP 21 summit to reduce emissions globally. It was a lot to take in and fully digest, so we decided to pull together a short list of must read articles that wrap up 2015 and get us energized for 2016.

 

 

The future for renewable energy is looking bright!

Cheers to a Happy Solar New Year!

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From LED’s to Solar-Powered Christmas Trees: the Holidays Become More Energy Conscious

The holidays have never been brighter, or greener. With the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been experiencing in the Eastern half of the country, we’ve noticed more people making time to get outside and set up holiday light displays. And as we take in these beautiful displays, we are enjoying the trend towards LED lights and solar-powered Christmas trees.

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LED Lights Keep Money in the Bank

Christmas lights are typically left on for hours at a time, so it’s easy to rack up higher than normal electric bills. Investing in LED string lights that use less than a third of the energy, last 10 times longer, and are safer than a standard incandescent string means that you will end up with more savings in your pocket year after year. The electricity bill will go down. Replacement strands won’t be needed for years. And since LED lights don’t emit heat, they won’t overheat and cause a fire.

Harnessing the Sun to Light up the Night

Christmas Tree: Rockefeller Center

Christmas Tree: Rockefeller Center

Cities around the world have been using LED lights to brighten trees for years and now they are taking things a step farther by powering those lights with energy supplied by the sun. Here’s a rundown of some solar-powered trees we love this Christmas:

Brisbane, Queenland, Australia  

New York City, NY: Rockefeller Plaza 

Lismore, New South Wales, Australia 

These trees are gorgeous. If you are traveling this season and have an opportunity to visit them in person, you won’t be disappointed.

(Due to space constraints, panels are not yet supplying 100% of the power needed, but we find it inspiring none-the-less that cities are using renewable energy to make their holiday displays greener each year. More information can be found here regarding the energy usage of the Rockefeller Center tree.)

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Solar Myth Busting: High Maintenance

Rooftop solar

Myths get started all the time as we try to understand something complicated. We make up a story as an explanation, and the more times we say it and share it, the more that myth sounds like truth. So, we are going to bust some myths by sharing the simple facts about solar. This doesn’t have to be complicated and these myths are no longer necessary to get solar.

Myth: Solar is High Maintenance

Fact: Solar panels have no moving parts, on average are warrantied for 25 years, and nature takes care of the bulk of the maintenance work.

With no moving parts, solar panels require little to no regular maintenance. And because we are in the Midwest, we are lucky, because heavy rainfalls generally take care of cleaning the panels for us! If you think you are in an extra dusty part of town, a couple times a year you may want to check your solar panels for a build-up of dirt and debris, since heavily soiled panels will have slightly decreased output than sparkling panels. Panels that appear heavily soiled with dirt, pollen, or bird droppings can be rinsed off safely with a garden hose on cloudy days or early in the morning. No need to scrub your panels or hand clean them, which can result in damage. If your garden hose doesn’t have the power to get all of your panels with you standing on the ground, we recommend having a professional climb onto the roof to take care of them for you. Safety isn’t to be taken lightly.

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From Paris to Your Home

COP21 to Home
This week, 190 leaders from around the world are gathered in Paris for the 2015 Climate Change Conference (COP21). Governments from the largest nations to the smallest, from the most wealthy to the poorest, are putting forth plans to slow global warming. With such distant dignitaries working on the problem, where does that leave you and me?

It may feel like all of us back at home are just in the audience of the climate talks. We are outside looking in, following the scenarios, the plans and the pledges. But we don’t have to just be1 spectators. We can actively participate by making necessary changes in our own back yard.

Several key actions have been identified as needed to limit the most severe effects of global warming. These are actions that nations, states and cities will be making pledges and plans around. They are also actions that each one of us can address individually, in our own homes, and in our own back yards.

  • We can increase the efficiency of buildings. Think about your own home: where can you make efficiency improvements? US News and World Report offers 10 Energy Efficient Home Improvements you can make like sealing air leaks, adding insulation to your attic, and installing a programmable thermostat. The bonus you get with these improvements is that you not only make your home more efficient, you’ll use less electricity and gas, and save you money. Over the long term, you will save more money than it costs to implement these improvements. And you’ll reduce your use of fossil fuels.
  • We can increase electricity generation using clean power like solar and wind. Over the last 15 years installing solar on homes around the Midwest, we’ve experienced the price of solar dropping 80%, which has been making solar cheaper for many homeowners than their existing electric provider. You can save money from day one and do your part to contribute to the slowing of global warming by switching to renewable energy. We are seeing more homeowners than ever taking this bold and smart step to reduce the amount of fossil fuel pollution entering the atmosphere.
  • We can educate. Each one of us can share news and ideas for slowing global warming. When we take action at home to reduce fossil fuel usage, we can let our friends and neighbors know how they can do the same. We are in this together and the only way we will get out of it and make an impact is together.

The adage “Think Globally, Act Locally” still applies to the world’s climate crisis. Leaders on the global stage in Paris are making commitments and taking action to help alleviate this crisis, and each one of us can do the same on our own local stages too.

 

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5 Top Solar Changemakers We’re Thankful For

Heartfelt Thank You

Gratitude, like solar, is a renewable energy that gives us power and is contagious. Here’s a short list of Solar Changemakers we’re thankful for and we encourage you to share your gratitude for solar with others as well.

1) Customers! 
Happy customers are our Solar Champions, early adopters, and our greatest resource in spreading the word about clean solar energy.

2) Third Sunians
This team crusades for solar every day, climbing to new heights installing arrays, speaking at community events, and walking the talk to accelerate the shift to clean energy.

3) Renewable Energy Advocates
Associations like the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy, Solar Energy Industries Association, and Green Energy Ohio advocate for a clean energy economy in Ohio every day to the state and federal congresses. Right now they are battling to continue the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that expires at the end of 2016, which has reduced the cost of solar arrays by 30%.

4) Amicus Solar Cooperative
Being a member-owner in this coop benefits our customers by lowering the costs of installing solar on their homes and businesses because we pass purchasing discounts thru to them.

5) Ownership Partner
We’re thankful for Dividend Solar partnering with us to make solar more affordable for homeowners. They offer financing with as little as $0 down, so you can own your energy instead of renting it. You experience energy savings from day one and receive the tax benefits all while investing in your home.

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Opt OUT of Black Friday and Opt IN to Green Friday

OptOutside

Around the office, we’re getting a little worn out from all the hype and consumerism of Black Friday. So this year we’ve decided to opt out of Black Friday and Opt IN to Green Friday. You might be wondering what we mean by that. Well, being a solar company, we tend to be green-minded. We spend a lot of time thinking up ways to do good for our communities and environment, and the more we thought about Black Friday, the more it didn’t sit well with us. So we’re reimaging what it could be.

Green Friday for the team at Third Sun is going to be spent reconnecting, recharging, and relaxing this year, and here’s how we plan to do it:

  • Relaxing with our loved ones both near and far
  • Playing flag football
  • Hiking at local parks
  • Mountain Biking
  • Skateboarding
  • Decorating for Christmas
  • Renovating our homes

A couple more ideas for opting into Green Friday would be to volunteer your time with a nonprofit, clear out your closets and donate items to charity, or sleep in and enjoy a cup of coffee while reading the newspaper. Opt IN to Green Friday with us and share your plans to do it in the comments below, Twitter, or Facebook.

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Veterans leading the charge to a brighter energy future

Over the last year, the solar industry has continued its double digit growth throughout the US, creating thousands of jobs along the way and outpacing the national average. Many of these jobs have been filled by our military veterans. We are proud of our veterans for their commitment and service to our country, and we are excited to have them securing our energy future by joining the solar workforce.

Credit: The Solar Foundation

Credit: The Solar Foundation

Veterans are now nearly 10% of the solar workforce and with their discipline, motivation and technical expertise that percentage should continue to grow and outperform the percentage of veteran employment nationwide.  Even the Department of Energy recognized the contribution that veterans could make to the solar industry and created the Solar Ready Vets program last year, which connects our nation’s skilled veterans to the solar industry, preparing them for careers as solar installers, sales representatives, and system inspectors.

Over 8% of our Third Sun Solar team is made up of people who have served in the military and we thank them for their service to our country as well as the work they do now to secure America’s energy future.

 

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Local Solar Business Leaders and Veterans Call on Sen. Portman to Grow Ohio’s Clean Energy Economy & Support the Clean Power Plan

 

 

Support the Clean Power Plan

Columbus, OH – On Tuesday, September 22, solar business leaders Geoff Greenfield and Mathew O’Brien of Third Sun Solar, solar homeowner Dr. Matthew Taylor and veteran Allen Zak urged Senator Portman to start voting to support the Clean Power Plan because of what it means for the booming clean energy economy and national security.

The Clean Power Plan was finalized on August 3, and puts in place the nation’s first ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants while providing incentives for investments in wind, solar and other sources of clean energy.

“Make no mistake, climate disruption is a national security matter and poses grave threats to the economic stability of all American families,” said veteran Allen Zak. “That’s why it’s time for all of Ohio’s representatives in Congress to tackle the climate crisis and support the Clean Power Plan.”

Power plants are the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States– responsible for 40 percent of the dangerous pollutant being pumped into our air. Carbon pollution fuels climate change, which the Department of Defense last year declared to be a “strategic threat” with major security implications for the United States.

Despite the fact that a majority of Ohioans support the Clean Power Plan, U.S. Senator Portman has voted against a burgeoning Ohio clean energy economy and clean air in Congress multiple times. That includes by introducing an amendment that would enable states to scrap the protections of the Clean Power Plan.

Congress has a key role to play in providing funding for all Environmental Protection Agency programs, and Senator Portman can show his support for the Clean Power Plan in the future by ensuring that the resources necessary for this program are secured in full.

“Taking action on climate provides Ohioans opportunities to use cleaner energy, grow our economy and protect the health of our families,” said Geoff Greenfield, President of Third Sun Solar. “We urge Senator Portman to start voting in support of the Clean Power Plan.”

Also See:

Department of Defense sees Climate Change as strategic threat: http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/612710

Majority of Americans support the Clean Power Plan: http://aufc.3cdn.net/9cce54755ec7d79594_tvm6ib002.pdf

 

 

 

 

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