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Why We Became a Certified B Corp

Third Sun Solar is proud to be a certified B-Corp, a designation awarded by an outside nonprofit organization to businesses “who meet the highest standards of verified, overall social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.”

Many folks ask us why we submitted ourselves for consideration, seeking to learn if it was purely for altruistic reasons, or if there were practical considerations as well. While we have run our business for “People, Planet and Profit” since our start in 2000, it was certainly still a hurdle to becoming formally certified by an outside organization; the process included time and resource-consuming logistical challenges, such as officially changing our LLC operating agreement to state that we must manage our business to serve people and the planet in addition to seeking profit. Since our first certification in 2012, we have since undergone recertifications as well as a random audit.

So why all the effort? There are many reasons, but these primary themes stand out:

Optimization

At Third Sun Solar, we use this word to describe the engineering and design choices we make as we come up with the best solar solutions for each customer situation. In our early days, I personally selected the best combination of inverters, panels and racking for each project, and spent a lot of time running the numbers and comparing the different options to arrive at an “optimal” solution for a customer’s goals. Today that work is carried on by our expert team, but I still apply that approach to running the business. I am analytical and curious by nature—running Third Sun Solar with my team involves hundreds of choices and decisions. With a focus on our mission, “To empower people to save the planet with clean energy”, we have concluded that focusing on a ‘triple bottom line’ (social, environmental, financial) is the optimized way to achieve that mission.

Differentiation

When we launched Third Sun Solar at the end of the 90s there were hardly any dedicated businesses focused on solar solutions. Today, solar customers have many choices, each promising that they are “the best”, “high quality”, etc. While Third Sun Solar’s long industry leadership helps us stand out from this crowd in many ways, we decided that achieving B-Corp certification would go a long way toward further distinguishing us as a leader. Our B-corp status is another way of showing we are fully committed to the highest quality and safety for our clients, our employees and the greater community (AKA our PEOPLE). Those who already do business with us can see firsthand that we’re trustworthy and honest; our B-corp status proves we stand up to rigorous scrutiny regarding our environmental practices (AKA our PLANET). While it is pretty easy to recycle cardboard, we go way further, including a 100% solar net-zero office, carbon-offsets for our driving, and even composting our kitchen scraps. By contrast, some of our supposedly environmentally-driven competitors don’t even recycle!

Competitive

One of the most important reasons we have become a Certified B-Corp isn’t altruistic at all. Like all for-profit businesses, we’re striving for a significant competitive advantage over our competition (other solar companies) as solar achieves its destiny as the preferred energy form in homes and businesses (AKA our PROFIT).

We’re also engaged in a “war for talent”. Third Sun Solar is primarily successful because of our people. Though we gain market advantage in areas ranging from internal software to low-cost purchasing through a co-op, at the end of the day the most important factor in our success and growth are the people on our team. From the first phone call or email communication to all of the human interactions along the way, and finally to the crew bolting equipment together and programming the electronics, our people are at the root of our success. Based on that understanding, we believe that recruiting, retaining and motivating the very best team members is our “secret sauce”. In this context, our B-Corp certification gives us a significant advantage (invisibility and attractiveness to high-quality candidates as well as employee satisfaction and retention), and it is one that we are glad to have.

Before founding Third Sun Solar as a business, I worked for several nonprofits in the social sector (focused on Appalachian poverty and affordable housing), along with my time in a government agency (the US Peace Corps). Those were formative experiences, and I have a lot of respect for many great people and programs working to solve big problems and make the world better through these sectors. I also have seen (and sadly continue to see) the destructive nature and short-sightedness of many conventional businesses, especially the largest of corporations where the conventional practice (and the legal requirements) focus only on immediate profit and only profit. The B-Corp movement is an effort to change this. Third Sun Solar and many other mission-driven businesses are harnessing entrepreneurial energy and drive to solve social and global problems that have vexed the nonprofit and governmental sectors for decades.

We are in the midst of an experiment and are excited to be part of a movement that takes the best of capitalism, creativity and market forces in an effort to use business as a positive force for social good.

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.

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.

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.

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

 

 

 

 

Third Sun Solar President to Speak at Ohio Conservation Forum

Third Sun Solar to Speak at Forum Designed to Explore Solar’s Future in Ohio

Third Sun Solar president, Geoff Greenfield, at the Athens Public Library. (Photo courtesy of The Athens News)

Third Sun Solar president, Geoff Greenfield, at the Athens Public Library.
(Photo courtesy of The Athens News)

 

Athens, OH– Third Sun Solar’s president and co-founder, Geoff Greenfield, will be speaking at this year’s final Ohio Conservation Forum, this Friday, December 19th.

The forum will explore Ohio’s current energy situation with a look back at the history and impact of solar in the state, as well as discussing what the future holds for renewable energy in Ohio.  The forum will feature a panel of solar professionals, including Greenfield, as well as a guest from Green Energy Ohio, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting environmentally and economically sustainable energy policies and practices in Ohio.

The event will take place at 1 p.m on December 19th at 1404 Goodale Boulevard, in Columbus. Those who are interested in attending are asked to RSVP to mattnisenoff@ohioconservation.org.

This symposium is a part of the Ohio Conservation Forums, an event put on by the Ohio League of Conservation Voters. The forums seek to stimulate education and discussion by joining experts with concerned citizens to discuss environmental and sustainability topics pertinent to the future of our state and its people.

More Watts

Static-Electricity-tw

As we all grow more digital and more electronic (anyone really think that’s going to stop?) we might consider where all that electricity will come from say, 20 years from now. (If it continues to come from burning coal, we’re all in trouble.) By adding productive solar now and migrating more of your energy use to electricity, you can make a significant personal contribution to a cleaner world for ourselves, our kids, and their kids. The power needs of homeowners are projected to increase over time, even with energy efficiency measures; if you think about whether you’re likely to drive an electric vehicle in the next 20 years, likely a plug-in, well, there’s a big bump up in your electricity use right there. And who knows what kinds of electron-juiced gadgets our kids’ kids will have. The point is, our energy needs are likely to increase dramatically over the coming decades. High-performing solar could be the energy bridge that gets us there safely.