Third Sun Solar is a Woman-owned Business

We are a woman-owned business, recognized as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) through the state of Ohio’s Unified Certification Program. We are EDGE-certified and federal HUBzone-certified.

Solar & Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Energy subsidies compared

Third Sun Solar – Newsletter – Third Series – Number 3

[box]We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.
—Native American Proverb[/box]

Third Sun Solar Offers Residential Referral Program

At Third Sun Solar, we have been building our business one system and one customer at a time, and seeing a surprising amount of growth from word of mouth—customers telling a friend, or a friend of a friend. So we have decided to begin rewarding our customers for those referrals.

If a friend or neighbor of yours has shown interest in your solar energy system, and might be a good candidate for their own solar energy, at home or at their business, please provide us with their contact information and help introduce us.

If you do this, we can offer each of your referrals a special premium—a $250 Visa Gift Card, courtesy of Third Sun Solar and courtesy of you—for installing a 5kW or larger solar system. And if they install a system, we can also reward you with a $250 Visa Gift Card. This offer is good until February 15, 2012.

There is no limit to the number of referrals you can give us—and we will reward you for each one. But referrals must sign a contract by this February 15 for the rewards to be paid. The $250 reward applies to systems 5kW and larger, with rewards being pro-rated for smaller systems.

For more information, please give us a call at 740-249-4533. Thanks!

Third Sun Solar Short-Listed for Major Innovation Award

ATHENS, OHIO—Third Sun Solar has been listed as a semi-finalist for the 2011 TechColumbus Innovation Awards, recognizing outstanding achievements in technology and innovation in Central Ohio.

Presented by TechColumbus, the annual Innovation Awards recognize outstanding achievements in technology leadership and innovation. From hundreds of entries, 13 outstanding leaders and teams who exemplify the best in technology leadership and innovation in 2011 will be honored during the Innovation Awards Ceremony on February 2, 2012 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Of the 13 award categories in this year’s event, Third Sun Solar is listed for its contributions in the Green Innovation segment. It shares this recognition with other firms that have developed a Green product or service that is commercially available and in production, and is in use with at least one customer/client; or that have applied or implemented a technology or process change that has a net positive impact on the environment.

About TechColumbus

TechColumbus is the catalyst for technology-driven economic growth in Central Ohio. Its goal is to accelerate innovation, business growth, job creation, and prosperity in the 15-county region of Central Ohio. TechColumbus works to create new companies, strengthen existing businesses, open doors to technology resources, and support the attraction and retention of technology-based businesses and talented people.

Linking the efforts of top technology enterprises, TechColumbus reaches out to the foremost research and development firms in the area—including The Ohio State University, Battelle, Columbus Children’s Research Institute, OhioHealth, 15 Fortune 1,000 companies, and thousands of tech-based and tech-enabled companies. TechColumbus facilitates collaboration among these tech assets and provides resources and assistance to accelerate business and overall economic progress.


If you have ever sought a residential remote estimate from Third Sun Solar, or needed help getting your solar array certified and registered to sell your SRECs, chances are you’ve spoken—or at least emailed—with Jamey Jones. She is one of our mainstays—another Third Sun employee who does multiple things well, and without whom we wouldn’t be able to function as we do.

Jamey came to Third Sun Solar in 2008 as a receptionist—a position known within the company as a launch pad, as we keep finding great people to answer the phones and promoting them into other jobs here. Jamie was soon doing economic and solar performance modeling for residential systems, and became part of our sales team, handling inside work for all residential sales—completing remote estimates, interfacing with the Public Utilities Commission and GATS, and serving as liaison to all residential customers and projects.

What led Jamey to Third Sun Solar? Mainly, it was her abiding interest in wellness and being green. She had previously worked at the Farmacy Natural Foods Store in Athens; developed health food recipes for a local clientele; provided organic landscaping services for area clients; and worked with Passion Works Studio in Athens as a lead production artist, making collaborative art with adults with and without developmental disabilities.

Having come to the Athens community over twenty years ago as an Ohio University student, Jamey has put down roots here. She is the proud parent of two amazing kids—daughter Lilah (again on course for straight A’s at Athens city schools) and younger son River, aptly named for being a source of boundless energy.

What matters most to Jamey is that her work has environmental and/or social value—that it makes the world a better place for her children.


Energy Loan Fund Replaces State Grants for Renewable Energy Systems

This past year, the State of Ohio Department of Development, Office of Energy announced that it was suspending the grant program for solar installations. The ODOD Office of Energy administers incentive programs through the Advanced Energy Fund to support investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in the industrial, commercial, and residential sectors. To that end, on December 15, 2011, the Office of Energy launched the Energy Loan Fund that applies funds through the Advanced Energy Fund along with federal funds from the State Energy Program to offer low-interest loans to those seeking to add renewable energy systems to their homes.

The new program is not a grant. It is a loan program that requires credit approval and carries up-front and annual fees, and for that reason, is not nearly as attractive as the former grant program. However, solar panel prices have been falling, and we are willing to review and re-do the performance and economic modeling we may have previously performed for you. We may be able to offer better pricing than we could before.

Our take on this is that some customers may benefit, but not nearly as much as during the previous grant period. With solar panel prices falling, the Federal Tax Credit and depreciation rules still in place, and the Energy Loan Fund, there may be enough incentive in place to persuade more people to go solar. 2012 should show us whether the move to clean energy is ready to climb the adoption curve and see more of a  mainstream embrace.


Gainesville, Florida Becomes a World Leader in Solar

By John Farrell

You don’t have to be big to go big on solar power.  That’s the lesson from the Gainesville Regional Utilities, the electric utility whose feed-in tariff solar policy has brought over 7 megawatts (MW) of solar to the city’s 125,000 residents.  The raw number isn’t much, but it puts Gainesville among the world leaders in solar installed per capita, beating out Japan, France, and China (and besting California, with 32 kilowatts -kW- per 1,000 residents).

[box]If we were to advocate for, and gain, such policies here in the Midwest, we could put Ohio and the surrounding states on the solar map—and make a dramatic step toward moving away from electricity generated by burning coal. Want to take action on that? You can begin by sending this article to your local municipal electric utility. [/box]

The basic premise behind the feed-in tariff program is that anyone who wants to be a solar power generator can connect to the grid and get a 20-year contract for their power from the municipal utility.

The long-term contract makes getting financing for solar projects easier and the prices are attractive.  The utility pays 24 cents per kilowatt-hour generated for large-scale ground-mounted systems and up to 32 cents for small, rooftop systems.

The price differentiation helps accommodate solar arrays of various sizes, from residential to larger commercial installations, spreading the economic opportunity.  The differentiation may also help small-scale residential projects that can’t use federal tax incentives for businesses (depreciation).

Thus far, approximately one-third of the city’s 7.3 MW of solar power is in relatively small systems 100 kW and smaller.  About half the installed capacity is in projects 500 kW and larger.

The solar feed-in tariff program also brings value to the local community and electricity system.  A report released earlier this year found that the grid benefits and social benefits of solar power far outweigh the typical valuation of solar power by utilities.  These benefits include reduced stress on the utility distribution system and reduced transmission losses.

The feed-in tariff program also means local economic development.  With a rule of thumb of eight jobs per MW, according to a University of California, Berkeley, study of the jobs created from renewable energy development, Gainesville has already generated 56 jobs.  The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has estimated that each megawatt of solar adds $240,000 to the local economy, and if Gainesville’s solar projects are locally owned, the value could be much higher.

More than anything, Gainesville provides an important lesson in local energy self-reliance.  While many communities must await action by a state legislature or investor-owned utility, the municipal utility has the authority to act quickly in support of the community.  And when the utility is locally controlled, it can mean big things for local solar power.


Founded in 2000, Third Sun Solar is at the forefront of the emerging Ohio clean energy industry—a growing resource for 21st-century jobs. For more than a decade, the company has custom designed and installed over 300 renewable energy systems for its commercial, institutional, government, and residential customers across the Midwest. Third Sun Solar employs a team of NABCEP-certified solar energy system installers along with system designers, financial analysts, grant specialists, and support staff, all focused on making it easy for customers to go solar. The company combines financial and management experience, highly trained installation crews, privileged supply agreements with leading equipment suppliers, a network of professional services partners, and advanced internal systems to deliver a smooth transition to solar energy at any scale. An Inc. 5000 company in 2009, 2010 and 2011, To learn more, please visit our website at



Third Sun Solar installers completing a 5.4kW SunPower panel systemon a standing seam metal roof in Coshocton, Ohio


Gerald Kelly

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Third Sun Solar Rises Again on Inc. Magazine Listing

Fast-growing Solar Design/Install Firm Climbs National List Three Years in a Row

For the third year in a row, Third Sun Solar has risen on the list of fastest-growing private companies in the U.S.

INC. Magazine ranked Third Sun Solar at number 543 among the fastest-growing companies in all sectors in 2011. That represents a continuing climb from Third Sun Solar’s 2009 ranking of #742 and a 2010 ranking of #623. Among U.S. energy companies, the firm came in at #16 nationally for 2011, and was the highest-ranked Ohio company in that sector. Of the many Ohio-based companies on the list, Third Sun Solar was ranked as the #12 fastest growing company in the entire state. These rankings reflect the firm’s 619% revenue growth from 2009-2011.

Founded in 2000, Third Sun Solar is at the forefront of the emerging Ohio clean energy industry—a growing resource for 21st-century jobs. For more than a decade, the company has custom designed and installed over 300 solar energy systems for its commercial, institutional, government, and residential customers across the Midwest. Third Sun Solar employs a team of NABCEP-certified solar energy system installers along with design engineers, financial analysts, grant specialists, and support staff, all focused on making it easy for customers to go solar. From start to finish, the company combines financial and management experience, highly trained installation crews, privileged supply agreements with leading equipment suppliers, a network of professional services partners, and advanced internal systems to deliver a smooth transition to solar energy at any scale.

AEP Ohio Renewable Energy Program

My View on New AEP Ohio Renewable Energy Programs (Solar)
July 22, 2011 by green energy bird

Is 0.5% a big number? When I first saw this Ohio Solar RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard) goal by 2015, I was thinking, we Buckeyes are setting low expectations for ourselves. I forgot to give my magic answer, “It Depends.”

In fact, big utility company AEP Ohio felt great pressure to meet this goal, as the energy consumption in Ohio’s industrial sector ranks among the highest in the Nation. The Ohio Solar Renewable Portfolio Standard goal is the 3rd toughest to achieve, after New Jersey and Florida. On average, AEP would need to add about 8MW to 10MW of solar installations per year to keep up. And the penalty for AEP’s non-compliance is quite high, about $40 per Megawatt-Hour.

AEP Ohio, like other utility companies, relies on utility-scale solar installations [to meet the RPS mandate], a lowest-cost solution compared to residential and [small commercial] installations. AEP will invest $20 million to build a 50MW solar power farm in Noble County, Ohio. AEP has already met its 2010 and 2011 SREC requirements, primarily from a 10MW facility built in Upper Sandusky, OH. However, AEP announced two new solar incentive programs last week to keep its solar power portfolio balanced and support the community.

1) The Renewable Energy Credit Purchase Program allows AEP customers to sell their own solar RECs to AEP at $300/SREC for year 1 and $262.50 for year 2. I doubt many people will sign up for this program–why sell SRECs to AEP at the price of $300 when I can sell at the spot market price of $345? For an average family house, this means about an additional $200/year revenue, an amount good enough to allow you to have Starbuck experience vs. a vending machine experience. However, some people might still sign up, as they just don’t know where to sell their SRECs so if AEP buys, they sell.

Going solar is can be cool yet confusing. Some may bet that the SREC spot market price will drop dramatically. I’m not sure this will happen. AEP Ohio still has a big gap to fill to achieve its Solar RPS goal. In addition, some states are already moving toward limiting utility-scale installations to protect the infant SREC market and non-utilitity installation market. High demand might help with keeping SREC prices in these two years.

The second AEP program is Renewable Energy Technology (RET) Program, which allows AEP customers to sell their own RECs in the next 15 years to AEP at the price of $1.5/watt now. I think this program is quite attractive. Let’s face the reality: although people have good intentions to go solar, we are still recovering from the worst financial tsunami since WWII and our pockets are not deep yet. The AEP RET program can potentially lower the initial installed price of a solar energy system by 25% on top of Federal Tax Incentive of 30% and cash grants for non-residential customers. If you want to go solar, you may want to act quickly. Remember, AEP Ohio does not rely on this type of SRECs to meet their RPS obligations. It has only only set aside $2 million in the pool for this program. Even though AEP Ohio only promotes the program through installers and word of mouth, the fund may not last very long. Before you rush to submit application, I have one more number to help you make an informed decision. $1.5/watt is equivalent to about $100/SREC, only 1/3 of its current AEP SREC price. Are you willing to accept the deal? If you believe that SREC value will drop dramatically over a long period time, the answer might be Yes. But I don’t have a crystal ball. This program is a good deal if you want to install Solar PV NOW.

A word of caution is that these two AEP programs are financing tools. They are different from cash grants like the Ohio Advanced Energy Fund Grant (AEF). It is still uncertain if Ohio AEF that expired last year will come back. If so, installers will be more than thrilled, as the AEF helped boost the solar industry in Ohio.

A REC (Renewable Energy Certificate) is a tradable, non-tangible energy commodity that represents the environmental benefits of the power produced from renewable energy projects, and is unbundled from the generated electricity itself. One REC is equal to the environmental attributes of one megawatt hour (MWH) of electricity from a renewable or environmentally friendly generation source. SREC means Solar REC.

This is a great overview of the solar situation here in Ohio. Third Sun Solar has come to the same conclusion as you in the analysis of the new AEP programs (in comparison to the “spot” market for SRECs). We have several customers that have wanted solar for a long time, and are excited to take the RET option in order to move their power from a polluting, distant source that goes up in cost annually to the new rooftop power systems I expect we will see on every roof someday. We would be happy to put some on YOUR treehouse too! call us at (877) own-solar to chat! – Geoff


Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) are a mechanism by which owners of solar energy systems can trade “credits” on an open market and reap financial returns in exchange for the renewable energy attributes of their system.

Third Sun Solar Installation at Findlay Market, Cincinnati

An SREC is a Solar Renewable Energy Certificate, often called a “credit.” It represents “the renewable energy attributes” associated with one megawatt hour of electricity produced by solar technology (one MWh equals 1,000 kilowatt hours). How many SRECs will a given solar energy system produce? A general rule of thumb in Ohio is 1 kW of solar capacity will produce approximately 1 SREC per year. Therefore, a 5 kW solar power system will produce about 5 SRECs per year.

When discussing SRECs, it is important to note that it is not the electricity we are talking about; someone with solar panels on their rooftop enjoys full uses of the electricity produced by those panels, regardless of whether they keep or sell their SRECs. What is sold as an SREC are the intangible “green energy attributes” associated with one MWh of solar power. And along with those attributes come the “bragging rights”—in other words, the party that holds the SREC owns the right to claim they are producing clean power. Only the SREC owner can cite use of solar in marketing materials and to meet policy goals. This promotes the spread of renewable energy, and prevents two parties from making duplicate green claims for a single energy system. (Third Sun Solar offers a white paper entitled “SRECs and Green Claims”—just ask your project developer for a copy, or contact us).

As part of our service, Third Sun Solar will be pleased to provide consulting to assist you in securing the best deal for your SRECs. Although many installers receive commissions or a “cut of the deal” in exchange for steering their customers to certain buyers, Third Sun Solar has made the decision to not seek any income from our customers’ SRECs. Therefore, you can trust that our advice is unbiased and that our only goal is to see you maximize this revenue stream.

Customer @ Center

At Third Sun Solar, we have a customer-centered approach and treat each client and project as an opportunity to deliver an individualized solution.

Heart-shaped sunspot—Photo by Dan Hershman

We have a “listen first” philosophy, seeking to understand and clarify each client’s desired outcomes at the beginning of any project. We inform decision makers of their realistic options and the implications of their decisions, and make recommendations based on the client’s goals and our experience and knowledge.

Our goal is to build a mutually beneficial and long term relationship with our clients and project partners. Our repeat business and strong referral network are testimony that honest and conservative assumptions are more important than “overly enthusiastic” estimates, claims and assurances. We would rather under-promise and over-deliver, and to do so, we rely on our experience base of historic project data and actual costs to inform both our energy performance projections and our cost and timeline proposals.

The Solar Mainstream

At Third Sun Solar, our approach to bringing solar into the mainstream is to deliver the highest value solutions to every one of our customers.

Third Sun Solar array at Evolving Enterprises, Cincinnati

So how close is solar to becoming mainstream? Solar technology has been around for 50 years, and has matured to the point of very high reliability. The industry is enjoying rapid growth in system deployment as more people realize the benefits. With solar, the cost of fuel is free forever. And the maintenance requirements are smaller than for just about any other performance device you can put on your building. So it can also be a sound economic investment, if done right.

And doing it right is the crux of the issue. To cross the threshold of becoming mainstream, it is absolutely critical that solar energy systems make energy. Not just a little energy – as much energy as possible, and more importantly, as much energy as you expect it to when you make that investment. Today, that requires an experienced solar system integrator who can bring together the engineering, the technical, the electrical, the financial, and the utility-connection aspects of solar—so it is designed, engineered, constructed and monitored correctly, and generates all the power it should.

There are very few Ohio companies who are positioned to offer the highest level of expertise in integrating all of these various critical factors. At Third Sun Solar, we have over 10 years experience, 300 installations, and perhaps our greatest asset, the long view—that is, the patience to guide customers toward the best solar solution, which usually does not produce the fastest buck. But that’s okay. We will be here for many sunrises to come.

Donations for Cancer Research

Third Sun is proud to be a supporter of this year’s Pelotonia and the fundraising team of Bo’s Tire Barn, whose four riders raised $10,000 last year in support of the cancer research taking place here in Central Ohio at the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.  Last year, the two-day 180-mile cycling fundraiser raised over $4.5 MN dollars.  The 2010 six-rider team has set, and is fast achieving its goal, of $30,000!

We wholeheartedly support the mission of the Pelotonia and are excited to be a part of the effort to raise funds for this cause.  Like so many, we too have lost loved-ones to this dreaded disease, but we also are grateful for the family and friends that have won their battles with cancer with the help of institutions like the James and Solove.

As a growing business in Central Ohio, we also recognize that support of Pelotonia benefits our customers, our community and the Third Sun family, so we are proud to do our part.

We hope you will join us in supporting the fundraising riders of Bo’s.  They are a diligent and committed fundraising team and promotional partner.  They are doing some pretty tough training so as to be  – as they put it – “worthy of their donors’ support.”

Pelotonia 2010 and Third Sun Solar – raising funds to end cancer!

Bo’s Tire Barn : Powered by Third Sun Solar (Athens, OH)

There was never any question about the team riding the Pelotonia again. We want to do all we can to keep raising funds to support cancer research. The only question was “How could we raise more for the cause?” Last year, the four of us scrambled to meet our team goal of $10,000 on the last day of fund raising. It was a lot of work (harder than the pedaling), but it was worth it. We received a tremendous amount of support from over 120 donors and we were (and are) extremely grateful. With Pelotonia expanding, we knew some of our donors might have to split their contributions amongst more than one rider, so we also knew we had to do more than train hard to be worthy of your continued support.

Well… we are excited to announce that this year your contributions for cancer research will be 30% more powerful, thanks to a 30% match by our corporate sponsor – Third Sun Solar, the Midwest’s preeminent solar power installers. In addition to Third Sun’s support of Bo’s efforts, Third Sun will be a partner to the Pelotonia by supplying solar-generated electric power to the kick-off and finish lines.
We are honored by the opportunity to represent Third Sun and we are proud to be helping the company accelerate the shift to clean energy by spreading the word about the compelling commercial and residential ROI for solar power in Ohio. The company is a natural fit for this event and we hope that in return for their generous support of cancer research, we can provide important exposure for the company and its mission. So, please be sure to check-out their web site to learn more about this surprisingly viable source of renewable energy, whose time has come.
This year, Bo’s peloton will be six strong:
Brendan Flaherty – our Captain and 2009 Bo’s top fundraiser
Shawn McGrath – Corporate Sponsorship Officer
Dave Bowers – Chief Pilot
Scott Siebenaler – Team Nutritionist and TOSRV Participant
Megan – Team Food Taster & Fashion Designer
Kristin – Head of Security
On a final note…One of our teammates lost his father this spring. Al Siebenhaler was 81 and survived a serious brush with cancer in the 1980’s. A bittersweet reminder of what this event is all about.