Solar in Cincinnati? Yes! #4

Can Greater Cincinnati support a solar industry?



These 26 organizations listed in the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) database include manufacturer/suppliers (like Enerfab Inc. in Winton Place), installers (like Dovetail Solar and Wind), and other related solar services (financing, project development, consulting, and nonprofits).

See the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) interactive online map for a view of Cincinnati, and the rest of Ohio’s solar industry:


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Dishwashers vs. Sinks!

Can you wash 8 full place settings of dishes with only 2 minutes of running water?

We were recently inspired to reconsider our dishwashing practices by an article in The Washington Post entitled, “Why you shouldn’t wash your dishes by hand”. The article challenges a common perception that hand washing saves energy and water.

Here’s the big picture:

  • modern dishwashers are optimized for efficient water and energy use
  • are able to save 230 hrs (10 days) annually that would otherwise be spent hand washing
  • are very effective at cleaning
  • are able to sanitize dishes with 140 degree water


“Scrape, Don’t Rinse”

According to the article, the most egregious water waste commonly occurs when dishes are pre-rinsed with continually running water before they go into a dishwasher. Modern dishwashers are more than capable of cleaning residue on eating-ware, so simply scraping dishes can adequately prepare them for washing.

If the article’s recommendations aren’t enough to convince you, it provides a number of other consumer and efficiency-minded organizations that have also weighed in on the scraping-versus-rinsing debate and the role of the modern efficient dishwasher:


The Clear Loser: Old Dishwashers

The Post concedes that while the most frugal and strategic of hand washers might be able to compete with modern dishwashers, older models finish last place concerning energy and water efficiency. Combine an inefficient dishwashing machine with in-sink pre-rinsing, and the problem is compounded.

The Natural Resources Defense Council reports that a dishwasher from 1991 uses up to 3-5 times more water and 1-2 times more energy than modern efficient models. Paired with an estimated 20 gallons of water wasted annually from pre-rinsing, an appliance update starts looking worthwhile.

Update and Save Energy, Water, Effort, and Money

Even if you don’t agree that it’s better to use a modern dishwasher than to hand wash, the main takeaway should be that an old dishwasher is costly. Like most energy efficiency measures, an investment in an ENERGY STAR certified machine pays back through energy, water, and time savings.

ENERGY STAR has an array of resources on its website that provide a potential buyer with everything they need to make a wise purchase:

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us either online, or by phone (513-621-4232), and we will be happy to talk with you.

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Solar Thermal: Home Water Heating and Portable Stoves

Solar Panels are just one of the ways that solar energy can be utilized. Lately, our Building Analyst, Dane Ervick, has been learning about solar thermal technology.

Solar Thermal Water Heating in a Nearly 200 year-old Home

The latest phase of the large scale energy efficiency improvement of the 1821 Daniel Beard Home in Covington, KY involved the installation of a solar thermal water heating system. Dane was on the roof overseeing Intercept Restoration’s installation as part of our Contracting Service.


Solar thermal relies on a system of tubes to capture solar energy. A solar thermal tube consists of an inner glass tube coated in a reflective material which is enclosed in a transparent glass outer tube. A vacuum is created between the tubes which reduces heat loss and increases efficiency. The tubes are installed on the roof and filled with a water/coolant mixture.




The sun heats the mixture in the tubes (#1 on the above illustration) which is then transferred via a solar powered electric pump (#2) to a water storage tank (#3 ,which looks like a typical water heater) located in the basement. In the storage tank, heat is transferred to potable water through a heat exchanger, which renders the potable water hot and ready for use (#4). The cooled water/coolant mixture is then cycled back to the rooftop tube installation to start the process over (#5).

In the Daniel Beard home, the homeowner designed the solar water heating system to pre-heat water that can then be fed into a natural gas heated instantaneous water heater. This design allows the gas water heater to bring the preheated water up to the desired temperature at night or on cloudy days while ensuring that the majority of the heat will be supplied by a free and renewable resource.


With the sun heating the water and providing the power for the water pump, energy costs for heating water will be almost completely eliminated. After installation, water heating bills can drop 50-80%.

Solar Stoves: Portable Renewable Energy

Solar thermal technology came up again while Dane was speaking about energy efficiency for the 8th Annual Winter Permaculture Design Certification class provided by On this particular day, the class was being held in the home of a past client of the Energy Alliance’s Contracting Service program.


Before his presentation, Dane heard a presentation from GoSun, about their portable oven which uses solar energy to cook. After getting a closer look, Dane realized that the portable oven was essentially an empty version of the solar thermal water heater tube he had just seen on top of the Daniel Beard house.

Instead of heating a water/coolant mixture, the sun heats your food!



“Seeing the many creative ways that we can harness the power of a resource that is so ubiquitous makes me very excited to see what the future holds for this technology.”

Dane Ervick, Energy Alliance Senior Operations Associate and Building Analyst


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OKI Interactive Solar Map

Is Your Home Suited for Solar?

The OKI Regional Council of Governments has launched an online interactive Solar Map to help homeowners determine if their home is a good fit for solar. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, the Solar Map provides information about the solar potential of buildings in the Greater Cincinnati region.

After searching a specific address, the map can tell you:

  • if a roof is “good for solar” or “too shaded for solar”
  • the percentage of usable roof area
  • the size of the potential system
  • the potential number of kW per year that the system would produce
  • an annual utility savings estimate
  • the optimal areas of the roof for the panels

OKI would like you to keep in mind that this isn’t a perfect resource. The information produced by the tool is based on survey data and can’t substitute for a professional evaluation, but it is a great place to start.

Using the Map

1. Type the address of the building in question in the search bar in the upper right of the browser window:


2. Click on the building in the map:



3. See your solar potential from the results that appear on the left pane of the browser window:




About OKI: The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) is a council of local governments, business organizations, and community groups committed to developing collaborative strategies to improve the quality of life and the economic vitality of the region.


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Is our region Solar ready? Should we be?

Guest writer Travis Miller is the Regional Planning Manager at the OKI Regional Council of Governments, an organization which we partner with frequently. OKI recently developed an interactive online Solar Ready map for people to get an initial idea of a building’s solar potential. Here’s a great post by Travis advocating solar in the OKI region:

Is our region solar ready?

Should we be? I love the sun! To me, there’s nothing much better than spending time outside on a sunny day – just soaking it in. Regardless of the season, sunny days just seem to be better days. I’d never really thought about the direct benefits of the sun or given much consideration to solar as an energy source… certainly not here in the Midwest. Today, I am going to share with you some pretty interesting findings I have come across regarding solar power. First, power from solar energy is something only viable in the far south or southwestern regions, right? Not true.

Where in the world is Solar Suitable?

Consider this – Germany is the global leader in installed solar capacity, yet, when you measure the level of solar energy hitting the earth’s surface on an annual basis, Germany has a very similar solar resource to that of Alaska. The bottom line is that solar works in every state, regardless of temperature.




Okay, so we have a fair amount of solar energy landing in our region, but it’s expensive to install solar panels is what I have heard.

Maybe it used to be expensive, but today solar power is becoming significantly cheaper. The cost of solar panels has dropped 99% since the 1970s. The total installed costs for solar PV at the residential level has followed and prices fell by over 50% between 2009 and 2014 alone. Declining prices has resulted in impressive growth rates. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Solar Market Insight Report 2014 Q4:

  • Installations of solar PV in the US were the highest ever in 2014 – up 30 percent over 2013.
  • 12 times as much solar was installed in 2013 as in 2009.
  • More than one-third of all cumulative operating PV capacity in the US came on-line in 2014.
  • The most rapid growth segment forecasted in 2015 is in the residential market.

The chart below shows the amount of solar PV installed each year in the US – as you can see, it’s been exponential.  To put this in perspective, 12,000 Mega Watts installed in 2013 is enough to power about 2 million homes.



Solar is the fastest growing energy generation technology in the U.S., growing even faster than wind power or natural gas. Nationally, rooftop solar PV (photovoltaic) systems are becoming more mainstream and, based on the amount of investments being made by homeowners, businesses and even utility companies, solar is more than a short-term trend.

With the recent advent of home batteries able to store power generated from rooftop solar panels and operate household appliances, the future potential of solar is even more interesting.

Solar In Our Region

Here in the Tri-State, installations are also expected to continue to increase in the foreseeable future. Here at OKI we’ve been monitoring national trends in solar development since 2012 and have worked with local and national partners to develop tools for our local communities use to better manage the expected increase in installations. OKI’s primary interest in solar is to ensure that communities in the region are armed with the best information and best tools available as they and their residents consider solar.

If you think you may be interested in making a solar investment on your home, be sure to visit the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance’s website. GCEA is one of OKI’s Solar Ready partners and has recently launched the Solarize Cincinnati program. Their program provides a free home solar assessment and opportunities for reduced installation costs for participants – visit for more information.

Solar In Action

Here are some pretty cool, local solar projects.

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s parking lot canopy is the largest publicly accessible solar system in the WORLD!

The IKEA store in West Chester Township has the largest rooftop system in the region.


Many of the Walgreens stores in the region have solar arrays on their roofs. This Walgreens is located in Deer Park on E. Galbraith Rd.



For more information on solar in our region, including an estimate of the solar potential of your home or business in the OKI region, visit and find your rooftop on our interactive map.

OKI staff is currently available to provide technical assist to any community in the region interested in applying any of the best practices found at

Feel free to contact me with any questions or to inquire about how your community can get assistance at

Hope you enjoy a sunny day soon!



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Solarize Installers: Third Sun Solar

From Third Sun Solar:

“Are you curious about solar and whether it is a good fit for you and your home?  At Third Sun Solar we have helped hundreds of homeowners evaluate their options and make an informed choice about this exciting technology.  We are in our 15th year of focusing ONLY on clean energy, and have carefully built our stellar reputation by delighting one customer at a time.

Our focus on customer service begins with the initial consultation and educational step, where we take the time to listen to your goals and share our experience and expertise.  Informed with clear and honest answers, our customers create a custom solar system that fits their goals, their home, and their budget.  We have earned our premier status by providing a full service solution: we are more than just an installation company.

We treat you like family and work tirelessly to make sure your transition to clean solar energy is easy and fun.  Our success is based on our highly trained and very experienced team.  You will find everyone you work with at Third Sun Solar to be focused on our mission: To Accelerate the Shift to Clean Energy.”


“The Third Sun installation crew could not have been more professional. I have been around the construction industry for most of my life, and these guys were extremely professional and did a great job.” – Adam M.

“My system is fantastic! The installation went very smooth. It was installed, cleaned, and beautiful. I have been impressed with how knowledgeable and responsive the company is.” – J.W.


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