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20 Years in Business: The Founder’s Leap

20 years ago they took a leap of faith. Geoff and Michelle Greenfield decided to launch themselves into the adventure of a lifetime and start a business. The year was 2000, the beginning of the new millennium. While starting a business wasn’t that unusual, the subject matter of this new business was. Renewable energy and solar power had yet to become mainstream or even a consideration in most people’s minds in Ohio and the Midwest, yet the Greenfield’s decided to launch a business installing renewable energy systems, wind and solar.

The Beginning

In the late 1990s, using solar and wind for powering homes, businesses and schools was a very unique proposition. After the invention of photovoltaic (PV) cells in the 1950s, the technology was reserved for space applications and tiny projects. During the 1980s the costs of using PV started to come down as production increased. The 1990’s saw some growth in the use of wind and PV, but it was still relegated to demonstration projects and experimental sites, and a tiny number of remote homes.

The Greenfield‘s were not the type of people to just follow the mainstream. When they purchased their property in rural Athens County in 1995 and it did not have any power connection to the “grid”, they decided to look at alternatives to mainstream power and build a home “off the grid” and powered by the sun. They moved into the home in 1997 with a tiny 600 watt solar array (that is 0.6 kW to use today’s sizing reference) to power everything. It was ironic that they were able to see, from the hilltop where they built their house, the smokestacks and pollution of coal fired power plants to the south along the Ohio River.

By the year 2000, they had two young sons, ages three and one, and were still working on finishing the house that they were living in. Geoff envisioned the plan to leave his permanent employment and go out on his own installing solar for the few people who were seeking it back then. Starting a business, continuing to build their home and also needing to provide for their children made this leap a little bit scarier. The risks were there, but the mission to enable people to take control of their own energy future was compelling. And what better way to teach their children that there is a clean alternative to powering our lives; that we do not have to use the polluting, unsustainable, and – now we know – climate change causing electricity produced by burning fossil fuels.

Third Sun

The name of the business became an embodiment of this small family. The Greenfields knew that starting a business would require constant nurturing and care, just as having children did. It would become their “third son”. The business grew, alongside their actual kids. Now, their sons are ages 21 and 23, and the business is 20 years old. All three have definitely brought thrills, excitement, fulfillment and love. All three also have presented challenges along the way, with ample opportunities for learning and growth for parents (and business founders) Michelle and Geoff.

Reflecting back to the time when Third Sun was an infant, it is evident how the business grew in a “bootstrapped” way. Picture the start-up office in the attic of the house, with piles of papers and makeshift desks. A lot of work and dedication was needed to get the business off the ground and onto stable footing. The path from the attic to their current location in Athens, encompassing more than 3,500 square feet of office and warehouse, passed through a variety of office spaces from 2003 to 2012 at the Ohio University Innovation Center. It was there that the Greenfields really began to understand that small business “helpers” were abundant in Athens, encouraging and providing tools and advice to entrepreneurs like them.

A Nurturing Environment for Entrepreneurs

During their 9 years as tenant clients at the Innovation Center, Third Sun Solar was able to go from the 2 founders to more than 21 employees, completing some of the largest solar power projects that the state of Ohio had ever seen. Business counselors and support from Ohio University’s Small Business Development Center, the Voinovich School and TechGROWTH all assisted the Greenfields in learning how to close contracts, manage employees, understand the financials and strategically grow the business. Third Sun also began to cultivate its network of outside advisers such as lawyers, accountants, business professionals and other business owners. Geoff and Michelle now felt comfortable asking for support. By 2012 they were “hatched” out of the incubator space into their own home office on West Union Street in Athens, where they remain headquartered today.

Even with all that support, nothing can replace the gumption, the persistence, and the intelligence of the owners to keep a business going. Entrepreneurs need to react quickly when faced with obstacles and understand how to capitalize on opportunities. Every day it is hard work to keep the ship moving forward and to keep growing, keep the doors open, and keep contributing to the economic health of the community.

Ohio is the 5th Largest User of Electricity in The Country

Third Sun Solar is proud to be the oldest continuously operating full service solar installation company in the state of Ohio.

In the very early years, on a visit to as solar conference in California, Michelle told a California solar installer that Third Sun was a young company based in Ohio. He looked at her and said “it takes guts to do solar in Ohio!” He was right. But the fact is that Ohio is the fifth largest user of electricity in the country. The state has a robust network of utility infrastructure and a large population of residents as well as manufacturing and commercial facilities. If a larger portion of utility customers in Ohio went solar it would leverage a great impact on reducing our carbon omissions in the United States and working towards the carbon emission reduction goals that need to be achieved in order to curb climate change.

The Impact

The Greenfield’s first two sons are grown and have left the house that the family built so long ago in the hills of Athens County. As they pursue their own paths and ideas of what work and careers that they want to pursue, their third “son”, Third Sun Solar, continues to enjoy the attention of its “parents”. With Geoff and Michelle still at the helm as owners and operators, the company has built up a professional team of employees that contributes to the continued growth and success of this “child”.

The impacts across the state of Ohio and even beyond this state have been great. Since 2000, Third Sun has installed over 23 MW of total renewable power, mostly solar, which produces over 26.5 million kilowatt hours of emission free power each year. As a result of Third Sun Solar’s work, 39 million pounds of CO2 emissions are avoided as customers switch from using utility power to their own clean power systems. The company is truly fulfilling its long-time mission to “Accelerate the Shift to Clean Energy”.

Over the next 12 months of 2020 Third Sun will be celebrating their 20th anniversary.

What a major milestone! Stay tuned to Third Sun newsletters, blogs and social media posts during 2020 to experience the rich tapestry of company history that will be presented. It will be fun looking back at favorite projects from the last two decades. There will be an interesting cost comparison of what it used to cost to go solar and what it costs today. Keep an eye out for archival photos, newspaper clippings and stories of the history of the company that might provide a few giggles. Expect to learn more about the forward thinking and sustainability mindset that has underpinned this company from it’s very beginning; our goal in sharing this history is to celebrate how far we have come and recognize how the current solar opportunity is built on the foundation stones laid in the past.

A Tesla Powerwall Installation

Third Sun Solar is a Tesla Powerwall Certified Installer.

We have met Tesla’s strict standards of quality and customer service. Tesla certifies installers to ensure quality installations of products across the United States and across the world.

Homeowners become interested in lithium-ion battery backup for a variety of reasons:

  • Protection for homes that experience frequent power outages: from blazing hot summers that increase grid demand, to extreme storms – outages are becoming increasingly common.
  • Self-sufficiency: power your home with the solar power you generate, during the day and at night
  • Increased use of your solar resource: powering your home with 100% renewable energy – day and night.

What is Powerwall?

Tesla is well known for making quality batteries. Tesla Powerwall and Backup Gateway interdependence make it the safest energy battery system on the market. The Backup Gateway controls the flow of electricity from the grid, solar or other energy sources to loads in your home and to the Powerwall. Powerwall is an inverter, a battery, and a temperature control unit, all in one. It is designed to be resistant to internal fire exposure, mechanical stresses, and electrical abuse. It is a safe touch system as no live terminals accessible to you or your family. Unlike other battery systems, the terminals are isolated and there is zero voltage when the system is turned off. Powerwall is the only double enclosure battery system for a home. The Back Gateway and Powerwall work together to safely provide your home with energy storage that you configure to your preference.

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2 Powerwalls mounted with stack kit
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Generation panel
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Backup Gateway
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Main panel
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PV load center
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PV meter
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SMA Sunny Boy inverter
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SMA Sunny Boy inverter
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If you are interested in whole house backup, we can talk you through the pros and cons in your scenario. It’s possible to even back up your whole house. Our team will size your system based on what is going to fit your needs.

Enjoy the Benefits of Powerwall:

  • Decide when and how to use the charge from your Powerwall to power your loads using the Tesla app
  • Monitor your energy use and configure your storage settings through the Tesla app
  • Select the modes of operation you desire and the amount of battery you wish to reserve in the case of an outage

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Benefits of Choosing Third Sun Solar as your Tesla Powerwall Certified Installer:

Remember that the Certified Installer you choose should offer a full range of services and have and a good track record for customer service and support.

With Third Sun you get:

  • Electricians that have been employees for a long time – As a certified benefit corporation we review and hire based on our core values and employees receive benefits and paid time off. We’re proud to say that our staff has been with us for a while.
  • The same goes for our office crew who will thoughtfully design your battery system, get and pay the permit with your local utility, procure equipment from the Tesla headquarters and make sure it gets to your home safely and is installed safely and legally.

We’re the oldest installer in the market and we’ve learned how to choose our equipment wisely.

After 20 years in business, we’ve seen a lot of products and companies come on the market – not all of them are in it for the long-haul. We are, and it’s important to us that we choose companies and products that are too. We’re experts at choosing quality products for our customers. And we think Tesla Powerwall is certainly one of them.

Fill out the form below to start a conversation with us and learn if Powerwall is right for you!

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Name*

A Tesla Powerwall Installation

Third Sun Solar is a Tesla Powerwall Certified Installer.

We have met Tesla’s strict standards of quality and customer service. Tesla certifies installers to ensure quality installations of products across the United States and across the world.

Homeowners become interested in lithium-ion battery backup for a variety of reasons:

  • Protection for homes that experience frequent power outages: from blazing hot summers that increase grid demand, to extreme storms – outages are becoming increasingly common.
  • Self-sufficiency: power your home with the solar power you generate, during the day and at night
  • Increased use of your solar resource: powering your home with 100% renewable energy – day and night.

What is Powerwall?

Tesla is well known for making quality batteries. Tesla Powerwall and Backup Gateway interdependence make it the safest energy battery system on the market. The Backup Gateway controls the flow of electricity from the grid, solar or other energy sources to loads in your home and to the Powerwall. Powerwall is an inverter, a battery, and a temperature control unit, all in one. It is designed to be resistant to internal fire exposure, mechanical stresses, and electrical abuse. It is a safe touch system as no live terminals accessible to you or your family. Unlike other battery systems, the terminals are isolated and there is zero voltage when the system is turned off. Powerwall is the only double enclosure battery system for a home. The Back Gateway and Powerwall work together to safely provide your home with energy storage that you configure to your preference.

If you are interested in whole house backup, we can talk you through the pros and cons in your scenario. It’s possible to even back up your whole house. Our team will size your system based on what is going to fit your needs.

Enjoy the Benefits of Powerwall:

  • Decide when and how to use the charge from your Powerwall to power your loads using the Tesla app
  • Monitor your energy use and configure your storage settings through the Tesla app
  • Select the modes of operation you desire and the amount of battery you wish to reserve in the case of an outage

Benefits of Choosing Third Sun Solar as your Tesla Powerwall Certified Installer:

Remember that the Certified Installer you choose should offer a full range of services and have and a good track record for customer service and support.

With Third Sun you get:

  • Electricians that have been employees for a long time – As a certified benefit corporation we review and hire based on our core values and employees receive benefits and paid time off. We’re proud to say that our staff has been with us for a while.
  • The same goes for our office crew who will thoughtfully design your battery system, get and pay the permit with your local utility, procure equipment from the Tesla headquarters and make sure it gets to your home safely and is installed safely and legally.

We’re the oldest installer in the market and we’ve learned how to choose our equipment wisely.

After 20 years in business, we’ve seen a lot of products and companies come on the market – not all of them are in it for the long-haul. We are, and it’s important to us that we choose companies and products that are too. We’re experts at choosing quality products for our customers. And we think Tesla Powerwall is certainly one of them.

Should I Get a New Roof Before I Go Solar?

We hear this question a whole lot: “should I replace my roof before going solar?

It is an important question. Many homeowners are excited to go solar and start shopping without considering the condition of their roof. The fact that you’re thinking about it now is an excellent sign that you’re planning ahead to make your solar installation a success.

We hope we can share some information with you that will help you determine how your roof life will factor into your solar journey.

Types of Roofs

The majority of our customers decide to have solar installed on their roofs. Some choose a ground-mounted array, and others have solar installed on their adjacent garage or carport. For most residential solar installations, a roof provides the optimal conditions for a solar installation.

Asphalt Shing Roofs

Asphalt Shingle Roofs are the most popular roof type in our area. They have warranties or shingle ratings anywhere ranging from 30 TO 60-year warranties.

Metal Roofs

Metal roofs are generally more expensive and have longer guaranteed lifespans than asphalt shingle roofs. This material lasts so long that, typically, the paint fails long before the roof itself. If you have a metal roof that’s in good shape – you can have solar installed on it. Metal roofs are great for solar because we can use clamps to install the solar racking on top of the roof easily.

Clay Tile Roofs

These roofs are beautiful and often designed to last a long time. Third Sun Kokosing Solar does not install solar on tile roofs, or slate roofs, but we have customers with clay tile and slate roofs that opted for a ground-mounted solar array to preserve the roof’s beauty.

Determining Your Roof Life

If you still have the paperwork that came with the roof when it was last replaced, check there. These papers should give you an idea of how much life is left in your roof. But, just like tires on a car – the lifespan on your roof will vary with different conditions. Things like materials, sun, and how well it has been cared for all play into a roof’s lifespan.

We know this information can be challenging to track down. Many of us have not been living in our homes long enough to have had a roof replacement or don’t remember when someone replaced the roof last.

Identifying Common Roof Issues

Another option is surveying the roof, yourself. (Disclaimer: Please be careful!)

Some common types of roof problems are:

  • Missing shingles – easy to spot and one of the most common roof issues. Missing shingles leave a gap in coverage on your roof.
  • Water damage – inside your attic is a clear indicator that your roof should be inspected and fixed before installing solar.
  • Damaged shingles – these, too, are easy to spot. If the shingle is so worn down that it’s become exposed to sunlight, its edges will curl, and the shingle will become discolored. This is a sign that it may be time for a new roof.

Inspection

If you are still unsure that your roof is in good enough shape after checking this paperwork and looking up at your roof, our next suggestion is to schedule an inspection. A roof inspector can do a roof inspection in person, and with some roofs, they can be done remotely. A roof inspector will give you an idea of the types of issues you will want to watch out for. They can also give you an estimate on when the roof might need to be replaced.

In some cases, there may be one area or another that can be spot fixed to ensure the roof’s integrity before a solar installation.

Should I replace my roof before going solar?

This cornerstone question is part of most homeowners’ solar journeys. And it’s a question to consider early on, as it may impact the timeline and cost of your solar project.

Here are some reasons why our customers install a new roof before their solar installation:

  • Our solar panels are warranted at 25 years. They are a long-term investment for your home – just like a roof.
  • The electricity savings from solar help offset the cost of the new roof.
  • Align the Cycles – asphalt shingle roofs and solar panels usually have similar warranty lengths – between 25 and 30 years. While it’s not necessary to do this, and solar panels may even extend the life of your roof as they protect the roof areas that are covered by panels, it does make sense for some homeowners.
  • While there is the option to deinstall and reinstall your solar system for a roof replacement, the cost of doing so eats into your solar system’s return on investment.
  • Some of our customers streamline their financing by rolling the roof replacement and solar installation project into one.

Why Roof Life Matters

We know this is a tricky piece of the puzzle. You’ve already decided that you’re going to invest in solar energy at your home. It’s hard to imagine paying even MORE to replace your roof.

We also know you are planning ahead.

Rest assured that if our team notices anything during our initial inspection that makes us think your roof may need to be assessed: we will let you know.

Once you have determined that your roof is in the appropriate shape and will be set to last the same amount of time as your panels – it is time to put the planning into action and sign up for a free solar evaluation for your home!

Granville, Ohio Farm

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This beautiful farm in Granville, Ohio now lives out their sustainability dreams with solar! 18.87 kW system, with annual energy savings equivalent to 20,187 lbs of coal burned for electricity. This project was the recipient of a USDA REAP grant.
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Granville, Ohio Farm

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This beautiful farm in Granville, Ohio now lives out their sustainability dreams with solar! 18.87 kW system, with annual energy savings equivalent to 20,187 lbs of coal burned for electricity. This project was the recipient of a USDA REAP grant.
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All You Need To Know About the Solar Tax Credit in 2020

The investment tax credit, otherwise known as the solar tax credit will allow you to deduct 26% of the cost of installing a solar system from your federal taxes. This is about a $4,000 – $8,000 average savings for homeowners who go solar in 2020.

The solar tax credit will remain at 26% for solar systems completed and placed in service before December 31, 2020. The tax credit will be reduced to 22% in 2021. After 2021 there will be no solar tax credit for residential customers. However, a 10% credit for commercial entities will remain.

We recommend that those seriously considering solar begin their solar journey early this year.

The History of the Solar Tax Credit

The solar tax credit has been the biggest stimulus for residential and commercial solar that the industry has seen. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the residential and commercial solar tax credit has helped the U.S. solar industry grow by more than 10,000% percent since it was implemented in 2006, with an average annual growth of 50% over the last decade alone.

The solar tax credit was originally intended to expire in 2007. Fortunately, it has seen extensions every year leading up to 2022.

Here is the current timetable:

  • 26% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2019 and before 01/01/2021
  • 22% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2020 and before 01/01/2022

How to Take the Solar Tax Credit

You claim the tax credit when you file your federal tax return.

The tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the amount of income tax that you would otherwise owe. If you don’t have a tax liability great enough to claim your entire credit in one year, you can roll the remaining credits over into future years so long as the tax credit is still in effect.

There is no cap on the value of the credit, and it is available to both residential and commercial customers.

It’s important to understand that the solar tax credit is not a rebate. In the case of rebates, taxpayers receive payment even if no tax is owed. Anyone who doesn’t owe federal income taxes will not be able to benefit from the solar tax credit.

We advise you to seek professional tax advice before determining if you can claim the tax benefit.

Here are some useful documents:

Ohio Tax Incentives

Ohio Tax Incentives remain the same. There are no new programs in Ohio to help support the growth of solar.

In 2019 Ohio saw a slew of anti-renewable legislation. The passing of House Bill 6 legislation granted subsidies to two failing nuclear power plants and reduced Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standards. Hybrids and electric vehicle owners saw an increase in annual registration fees for their environmentally friendly cars ($100-$200 registration fees). At a national level, the solar tax credit, which had seen regular annual renewals, did not see renewal in 2019.

Incentives boost the market for solar and make renewable energy more accessible to all people in Ohio. But, Ohioans have been without any robust solar incentives for many years now, and the industry has still seen large, natural growth. We see that even in these market conditions consumer demand, return on investment and consumer confidence in solar has created growth in the market.

The solar tax credit combined with the dropping prices has created a strong market in Ohio. Solar makes financial sense for homeowners.

Existing Ohio and non-government programs and assistance for solar include:

  • ECOlink – This public/ private partnership ECOLink provides up to a 3% interest rate reduction for up to seven years on bank loans when you complete energy efficient upgrades to your home (like installing solar!)
  • $0 Down Loans – Third Sun Solar partners with a national credit union to offer zero money down, low interest loan options. The loans are easy to understand and streamlined through our process

We strongly urge you to choose solar in 2020 to make the most out of the solar investment tax credit and start recouping savings right away!

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All You Need To Know About the Solar Tax Credit in 2020

The investment tax credit, otherwise known as the solar tax credit will allow you to deduct 26% of the cost of installing a solar system from your federal taxes. This is about a $4,000 – $8,000 average savings for homeowners who go solar in 2020.

The solar tax credit will remain at 26% for solar systems completed and placed in service before December 31, 2020. The tax credit will be reduced to 22% in 2021. After 2021 there will be no solar tax credit for residential customers. However, a 10% credit for commercial entities will remain.

We recommend that those seriously considering solar begin their solar journey early this year.

The History of the Solar Tax Credit

The solar tax credit has been the biggest stimulus for residential and commercial solar that the industry has seen. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the residential and commercial solar tax credit has helped the U.S. solar industry grow by more than 10,000% percent since it was implemented in 2006, with an average annual growth of 50% over the last decade alone.

The solar tax credit was originally intended to expire in 2007. Fortunately, it has seen extensions every year leading up to 2022.

Here is the current timetable:

  • 26% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2019 and before 01/01/2021
  • 22% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2020 and before 01/01/2022

How to Take the Solar Tax Credit

You claim the tax credit when you file your federal tax return.

The tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the amount of income tax that you would otherwise owe. If you don’t have a tax liability great enough to claim your entire credit in one year, you can roll the remaining credits over into future years so long as the tax credit is still in effect.

There is no cap on the value of the credit, and it is available to both residential and commercial customers.

It’s important to understand that the solar tax credit is not a rebate. In the case of rebates, taxpayers receive payment even if no tax is owed. Anyone who doesn’t owe federal income taxes will not be able to benefit from the solar tax credit.

We advise you to seek professional tax advice before determining if you can claim the tax benefit.

Here are some useful documents:

Ohio Tax Incentives

Ohio Tax Incentives remain the same. There are no new programs in Ohio to help support the growth of solar.

In 2019 Ohio saw a slew of anti-renewable legislation. The passing of House Bill 6 legislation granted subsidies to two failing nuclear power plants and reduced Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standards. Hybrids and electric vehicle owners saw an increase in annual registration fees for their environmentally friendly cars ($100-$200 registration fees). At a national level, the solar tax credit, which had seen regular annual renewals, did not see renewal in 2019.

Incentives boost the market for solar and make renewable energy more accessible to all people in Ohio. But, Ohioans have been without any robust solar incentives for many years now, and the industry has still seen large, natural growth. We see that even in these market conditions consumer demand, return on investment and consumer confidence in solar has created growth in the market.

The solar tax credit combined with the dropping prices has created a strong market in Ohio. Solar makes financial sense for homeowners.

Existing Ohio and non-government programs and assistance for solar include:

  • ECOlink – This public/ private partnership ECOLink provides up to a 3% interest rate reduction for up to seven years on bank loans when you complete energy efficient upgrades to your home (like installing solar!)
  • $0 Down Loans – Third Sun Solar partners with a national credit union to offer zero money down, low interest loan options. The loans are easy to understand and streamlined through our process

We strongly urge you to choose solar in 2020 to make the most out of the solar investment tax credit and start recouping savings right away!

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