Third Sun Gets OK For Military Work

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Athens-based Third Sun Solar has been selected by the U.S. Department of Defense as one of about 50 solar companies in the nation allowed to bid on solar energy projects that occur on military bases in the U.S. and possibly abroad. Third Sun was the only small business in Ohio to make the cut.

Last week, the U.S. Army awarded the final round of solar technology contracts that will support a $7 billion renewable and alternative energy power production for Department of Defense installations Multiple Award Task Order Contract.

What that means in layman’s terms is that as the Department of Defense designs projects to meet its congressionally mandated energy goal of 25 percent production from renewable sources by 2025, Third Sun has the opportunity to become a solar subcontractor for those large projects.

According to Third Sun Communications Director Gerald Kelly, this designation allows the company to participate in large-scale government work that it couldn’t previously do.

“This holds a huge potential for us to get projects outside of our normal market,” Kelly said. “And also projects that are a larger scale than we normally do.”

Kelly said that Third Sun primarily installs solar systems for homeowners, farmers and small businesses in Ohio.

“Beyond that core, we do some projects in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana,” he added.

Kelly said that the projects for the Department of Defense will be large with many components, such as energy efficiency and upgrading infrastructure — services that Third Sun does not provide. But where companies like Third Sun come into play is subcontracting. Kelly said large companies will be selected for such projects and then put out a request for proposals from those on the government-approved contract list for portions of the project, such as solar panel installation.

“Normally we would have no opportunity to bid on that kind of work,” Kelly said.

For Third Sun, it was a lengthy process spanning several months to apply for government approval. Kelly said there was a lot of paperwork involved including an overall examination of the company from the health of Third Sun’s finances to testimony from customers.

Kelly said that Third Sun mostly installs smaller solar systems in the 5-50 kilowatt range. However, the company has tackled some larger projects, such as a 1.76-megawatt system at the Assurant Specialty Property Service Center in Springfield, Ohio last year.

“That’s more of the scale we’ll be doing (for the Department of Defense),” Kelly said. “They may call us in for some small projects, but it will mostly be megawatt systems.”

Kelly cited a giant 2-5 megawatt solar field to power a remote military base as an example.

According to Kelly, finding solar installers to do the additional work shouldn’t be a problem. He said solar is a growing industry and many people are now going to school — including Hocking College in Nelsonville — to learn the trade. However, he said Third Sun wants to make sure it has the management resources (aka project managers and field managers) ready to go before any big contracts are awarded.

“We want to have people we know who have done projects for us. We want to make sure we’ve seen their work and know all about them,” he said.