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Sunday, August 3,2014

Local solar company eligible for bids on Army projects

By Conor Morris
Photo Credits: Photo provided by Third Sun Solar.
Photo Caption: A large-scale solar installation by Third Sun Solar at Assurant Specialty Property in Springfield, Ohio – 1.7 megawatts of rooftop and parking canopy solar arrays. Third Sun has been approved for U.S. Department of Defense solar projects of this scale and much larger.

The U.S. Department of Defense has selected an Athens-based company to be eligible to bid on solar energy infrastructure projects at American military bases. Third Sun Solar was the only Ohio small business to be approved for such work - one of 12 small businesses that were added nationwide, according to a release from Third Sun.

The business was granted access to bids as a part of support for $7 billion worth of renewable and alternative energy power production for the Department of Defense's Multiple Award Task Order Contract (MATOC). The contracts bid out to small and large energy infrastructure companies will be for work to reach a congressionally mandated goal of 25 percent production of energy from renewable sources by 2025 for the U.S. Army, the release said.

Gerald Kelly, communications director at Third Sun Solar, said the company had to submit "basically a large box full of paperwork" detailing information on specifics about the company, its size, leadership, and its financial performance.

"We're now able to bid on specific contracts for the Department of Defense for solar installations for bases in the U.S. and abroad," he said. "This initial hurdle, getting approved just to be on the list, that's kind of a high hurdle. They want to know everything about you."

Kelly said the majority of Third Sun Solar's work is installing solar panels for small farmers, but the business also does work with business owners and homeowners in Ohio. Though the company is used to doing smaller kilowatt projects, for example installing a 2-kilowatt solar panel on somebody's roof, Kelly said, there's a potential for many of the projects through the MATOC to be major megawatt-sized projects.

"Some might be on the small side in a remote place. It could be a radar station," Kelly said. "On the other hand, it could be much larger projects. The task order (MATOC) approval that we got relates primarily to larger 4-to-10 megawatt size projects. A four-megawatt project is huge, and a 10-megawatt project is almost utility scale."

By utility scale, Kelly meant providing energy for a large entity, like a town or city. He said many military bases have energy needs akin to small cities.

"The other aspect to this is that the Department of Defense is very interested in energy security," he said. "For example, an Army base that sits on civilian grid, they want to be able to function even if the civilian grid isn't functioning."

Third Sun Solar installed a 1.7-megawatt solar panel system on the roof and parking lots of Assurant Specialty Property Service Center in Springfield, Ohio last year. Kelly said that size of project would be more in line with the request for proposals (RFP) that the Department of Justice would send out.

Kelly said the RFP process will work so larger energy companies will receive a request for proposals on a large project, and then "one component of that larger task order might be adding solar, so a company… would then consult with us on the solar piece, and then when the project actually happens, they'll bring us in to do that solar part of it."

Kelly saw the Department of Justice's move toward renewable energy is a good sign for the market for renewable energy in the U.S. Whereas small-time local farmers have been quick to adopt solar, the rest of the market in the U.S. hasn't been as fast to catch on to solar as a cost-efficient energy source.

"We're very happy," he said. "This could potentially take us up that next big step in the ladder, in terms of working on multi-megawatt-scale projects."


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