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Published: Saturday, 11/24/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Map touts capabilities of factories, installers; aims to help companies work together

BY DAN GEARINO
COLUMBUS DISPATCH
First Solar Inc. in Perrysburg Township is among nearly 300 Ohio firms listed in a new database of manufacturers and installers of solar panels and their components. First Solar Inc. in Perrysburg Township is among nearly 300 Ohio firms listed in a new database of manufacturers and installers of solar panels and their components.
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COLUMBUS — Within 30 miles of Columbus, you can find two dozen manufacturers of solar-power components and a dozen companies that install them.

That tally comes from a new state database, part of an attempt to help companies in the solar industry work together and attract customers. The map, seen at www.ohiosolarenergy.org, was put together by Ohio University and the Ohio Development Service Agency.

It shows nearly 300 companies across the state.

Near Columbus, Kevin Eigel, owner of Ecohouse LCC, sees these kinds of databases as an important way for prospective customers to find him.

“I’m all for being on the lists,” he said.

He started his company in 2009, mainly as a provider of home-energy audits. He has expanded to installing solar equipment.

For years, the most thorough list of installers was maintained by Green Energy Ohio, a nonprofit group in Worthington, Ohio, Mr. Eigel said. The group hosts regular meetings and sponsors an annual solar tour.

The difference with this new state database is that it includes a broader variety of companies, including large manufacturers. The map shows dozens of manufacturers and installers clumped in Lucas County and scattered throughout northwest Ohio as well.

“We’re looking at the industry as a whole,” said Scott Miller, director of energy and environmental programs at the Voinovich School of Leadership at Ohio University, which helped produce the database. This is the most-recent example of the school’s work to catalog energy businesses in the state.

Ohio has become a hub of solar-power manufacturing, with clusters of companies in the Cleveland and Toledo areas. But it is not clear how much the industry has contributed to the job market and economy.

A 2011 report from the nonprofit Solar Foundation did not list Ohio among the Top 10 states for solar employment, which means the Ohio industry has fewer than 2,400 jobs.



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