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Third Sun Solar challenges Athens to switch to alternative energy

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A Midwest solar power company, Third Sun Solar, is daring the city of Athens to go solar through their Solar Challenge Athens program that will last through the month of March.

The challenge is a concept Jerry Kelly, the director of communications at Third Sun Solar, refers to as “solarizing.” Solarizing is a community effort to make the switch to solar power. When more home and business owners sign up for solar projects, they receive group-purchasing discounts on the installation.

“We are doing a trial in Athens and seeing how it goes. We are first in Southern Ohio to have a challenge like this,” Kelly said.

Third Sun Solar has done a number of projects in Ohio not only with businesses and residents, but also with schools, such as Kent State and Ohio University’s composting center.

The average household uses about ten kilowatts of electricity, so the installation of solar panels that will produce the same amount of energy costs approximately $30,000. However, the cost for installing to a residence or business does vary from project to project. Some consumers use more or less energy than others.

“We do not want to over produce, because if you do that then the utility will penalize the home owner,” Kelly said.

While the cost of making the switch to clean energy is high, tax credits and special grants can bring the price down.

“With solar, all of the cost is front loaded, you face the hurdle of paying a significant cost up front, but once you make that investment you have 30 years of free fuel,” Kelly said.

Bob O’Neil, owner of The Village Bakery is enthusiastic about the challenge, having already signed up in 2010 for a ten thousand kilowatt installation and now again for another installation of the same size for the canopy attached to the front of the restaurant as well as a solar water heater.

The original project cost approximately $45,000, however, with the American Electric Power credit grant, the price went down to $30,000.

The system should be up and running by June 30.

“With the new system we hope to be 75 percent solar powered, eventually we are going 100 percent,” O’Neil said.

The Village Bakery already demonstrates its concern about the environment through its use of biodegradable, sugar cane fibrous carry out boxes and reusable, returnable stainless steel silverware.

“It is not business decision. It is our responsibility to fix the future devastation that will be left behind by fossil fuels,” O’Neil said.

 

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