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Third Sun Solar grows with commercial demand for alternative energy

In the 1990s, Geoff and Michelle Greenfield decided to build a new home off the electric grid outside of Athens. To accomplish that goal, Geoff Greenfield designed and built a number of systems to power the Greenfield's new home -- including a photovoltaic solar array.

Today, Geoff and Michelle Greenfield are president and CEO, respectively, of Third Sun Solar, an Athens-based solar integrator that has made the Inc. 500 two years in a row.

Gerald Kelly, the company's communications director, says the company began small after word of mouth spread about the solar system Geoff Greenfield had designed and built for his own home.

"As people heard about that and as people saw the home and saw what he had done there, he started getting lots of requests from people to do it for them," Kelly explains.

In 2000, the Greenfields established Third Sun Solar and Wind Power Ltd., including wind in their advanced and alternative energy services. But as the business matured, "we found that our core business really is in photovoltaic solar," Kelly says.

Today Third Sun has grown to become a major solar systems integrator, operating from the Innovation Center at Ohio University while growing to 30 employees, Kelley says.

"Up until a couple of years ago, we had six employees," Kelley notes. In addition to its Athens operations, Third Sun has added sales staff in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus.

Third Sun projects have shifted from mostly residential in the beginning to mostly large commercial today, Kelley says. Part of that is a changing regulatory environment that provides more financial incentives to larger customers.

Kelley says the company plans to continue adding jobs but that "all the companies that do what we do are in the same sort of boat -- we are seeing this transition from the sweet spot being from 70 kilowatts (a small business or home) to more the megawatt scale."

As projects become larger, they also become more complex both for Third Sun and for the customer, he says.

Source: Gerald Kelley, Third Sun Solar
Writer: Gene Monteith
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