Third Sun Solar Putting the Heat on Ohio’s SB 310

Ohio lawmakers are pushing legislation that would roll back the state’s energy efficiency standards, and one local solar business is fired up in its opposition.

Third Sun Solar, based in Athens, has seen first-hand how energy efficiency has cut costs, spurred innovation and created business opportunities. Eliminating Ohio’s clean energy standards, as Senate Bill 310 aims to do, would not only lead to increased energy costs, but could significantly hamper their small business.

Third Sun Solar is the brainchild of Geoff and Michelle Greenfield. The original idea was to build a home in the hills overlooking Athens, and to power it using innovative sources. Geoff and Michelle were curious about how wind, solar and geothermal power might provide for their new home and young family.

With a Peace Corps background in building clean water systems in central Africa, Geoff took on the challenge of building clean energy systems for their new home. Once it was completed, a local newspaper took notice and ran a story about off-grid living and alternative energy systems. Soon, the idea for their home became a weekend sideline business for Geoff, as people in the area asked him to build similar systems for their homes.

In time, this grew into Third Sun Solar—an incubator for start-up technology businesses. With two young sons and, now, an infant business, Geoff and Michelle named the company Third Sun Solar because nurturing it was like having another child.

Today, with solar panel prices falling as the industry grows to scale, and with growing popular interest in clean energy, Third Sun Solar and other local solar installers across the nation are seeing their businesses slowly moving forward.

But the progress may be slowed if Ohio’s lawmakers have their way. Senate Bill 310 would freeze Ohio’s renewable standards and restore unchecked power into the hands of the utilities. It would allow the utilities to continue their “business as usual” practices and pass wasted costs and coal-fired pollution on to their ratepayers.

It’s not just the Greenfields who support strong standards. A recent survey found nearly 75 percent of Ohioans support clean energy standards, and Small Business Majority’s polling found more than half of Ohio small businesses say the state’s current standards create business opportunities. Given this strong support, senators should take notice and stamp out this legislation now.

One such energy supporter is Dale Grassbaugh, owner and operator of GrassyDell Farms is Knox County, Ohio.

Recently, Grassbaugh added a 31kW solar electric system to the roof of their dairy barn. Dale estimates it will save him over $400 each month on his electric bill and opposes SB 310, which would rollback these beneficial energy standards.

“I think we should go ahead and keep progressing and not fall back,” said Grassbaugh. “If we can use renewables like solar to make the fossil fuels last longer, we should do that. Previous generations have made things that improved our lives; we should be doing the same for future generations.”

Tom Hoffman, a Third Sun Solar customer in Gambier, Ohio, also opposes scaling back Ohio’s energy standards. “SB 310 is a backward step, and a tragic one—Ohio would be the first state in the nation to freeze the state’s enacted clean-energy goals,” he said.

As support continues to build, it’s clear the Greenfields and many others are hoping to highlight the importance of Ohio’s standards bright enough to make Ohio lawmakers see the light.

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