Is Solar Energy Economically Viable In Ohio?

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Ohio industry may have a future in renewable energy.

Local solar energy companies, the Ohio Development Service Agency and Ohio University’s Voinovich School are all working on making solar an economically viable energy source in Ohio.

Chad Smith is the Deputy Chief of the Office of Energy at the Ohio Development Service Agency.

“Historically, Ohio has a great industrial heritage,” Smith said, “We have a lot of strengths in those areas. So if we look at something like the solar energy industry, everything that goes into that, all the component manufacturing, leverages Ohio’s historic strengths.”

The office worked with the Voinovich School at Ohio University to develop a Solar Supply Chain Database.

Third Sun Solar is one company in the database. Ohio University alumni Geoff and Michelle Greenfield founded the company in Athens over 14 years ago.

As a company Third Sun Solar is dedicated to bringing affordable solar energy to businesses, residential homes, the government and organizations.

Gerald Kelly is the Director of Communications at Third Sun Solar.

“Ohio is among the states with the lowest electricity rates in the country,” Kelly said, “California, New York and Massachusetts all have higher rates so solar installers can design systems that will save people money right away.”

If electricity rates in Ohio continue to rise the state will reach what the solar industry calls grid parity.

“Grid parity is the point in time when solar can match the price of grid power,” Kelly said.

The price of grid power in relation to solar varies from state to state depending on laws and regulations on renewable energy sources and the specific utility company.

Third Sun Solar recently won the People and Planet Award from Green America. According to Kelly, the company used its winnings to expand the office’s recycling system to include composting and as a donation to Habitat for Humanity. They will use the money to build houses with solar electric systems in Athens.

Scott Miller, the Director of the Center of Energy, Economics and the Environment at the Voinovich School, says the school is interested in understanding the big picture of the energy industry in Ohio.

“We’re really interested in understanding what the size and shape of the energy industry is in the state of Ohio and how important it is to the state’s economy,” Miller said.

According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the state’s unemployment rate was 6.7% as of December of 2012.

The school works in both the renewable and nonrenewable energy sectors.

“People often think that the solar industry is important and it is but it doesn’t necessarily stand in a silo, it works alongside the wind industry and it works alongside the oil and gas industry,” Miller added.