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VOL. 126 | NO. 121 | Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Brighter Day

Sharp’s new solar array signals growing demand for alternatives

By Bill Dries

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With the flip of a switch Tuesday, June 21, at the corner of South Mendenhall and East Raines roads, the Sharp Manufacturing Co. Memphis plant upped its solar power generating capacity.

Kozo Takahashi, CEO and chairman of Sharp Electronics Corp., left, joins government and company officials to commemorate a new solar array at Sharp Manufacturing Co. of America on Tuesday.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)

The 59-kilowatt solar array is the third at the plant that has turned out two million solar panels in less than a decade in the solar panel business.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell hit a button on a panel starting the array after Sharp Vice President T.C. Jones and Sharp Chairman and CEO Kozo Takahashi got the thumbs up from a hard-hatted workman who emerged from a row of the panels behind a fence.

The other two arrays are in the rear of the Hickory Hill plant and on its rooftop. The rooftop array comes with a white surface that improves its efficiency.

The new array at Mendenhall and Raines generates enough power for five to eight homes and like the energy the other two arrays generate, it goes into the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division grid.

Together the panels generate 460 kilowatts or enough energy to power 80-85 homes. That doesn’t include a set of panels on the Sharp campus that power 20 lights.

Sharp is the largest local contributor back into the grid in an effort that also includes four homes and is still in its infancy.

The 460 kilowatts is still not nearly enough to power the Sharp plant on its own, but it speaks to the growing demand for solar.

“What we’re building here are not merely solar panels or solar assembly but it’s actually building the economy of the future,” Wharton said, adding that he would like to see the grid grow for homeowners.

“Part of any growth effort in our community has got to be those companies that are really progressive,” Luttrell said. “What Sharp is doing with solar panels is really on point with green initiatives and sustainability.”

Technician Jeromey Miller inspects a new solar array at Sharp Manufacturing Co. of America on Tuesday.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)

“We are looking at the full application of solar also in relation to industrial locations,” Wharton said. “Solar does play and will play an extensive role.”

Wharton, Luttrell and Jones also talked about the prospect of building an industrial solar array on Presidents Island.

“A major solar array could be constructed there with direct connections into the Allen (Fossil) Plant,” Jones said, referring to the Tennessee Valley Authority power plant in Southwest Memphis. “Those are some of the things we are looking at as it relates to increasing the amount of solar panels here and increasing the amount of renewable energy that’s used in this area.”

PROPERTY SALES 56 56 9,658
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BUILDING PERMITS 212 212 21,170
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