Sharp Manufacturing brought in Earth Day with the flip of a switch on the roof of its Memphis plant.
Memphis Light Gas and Water Division president Jerry Collins threw the ceremonial switch on a rooftop solar array Sharp is using to provide a small part of its power.
The solar panels are made beneath the roof in the Memphis plant and are a booming business.
With 400 employees, the Sharp plant runs 24/7 making 60,000 panels a month. That’s up from 20,000 a month last June.
Sharp already had a solar array at ground level. The rooftop array is much bigger with over 700 panels. It’s not quite the size of a football field. The roof also has a white surface that keeps temperatures in the plant cooler and makes for better conditions for the panels to turn sunlight into energy.
T.C. Jones Jr., general manager of the Memphis plant and vice president of human resources and general affairs, said the rooftop array will provide only a “very small amount” of the energy used by the plant. The array is big enough to power 15-20 houses.
Jones and other Sharp executives say the rooftop array is a way of building public awareness as Sharp and other solar energy manufacturers work on ways to make the panels more effective in harnessing power from the sun. As the technology now stands, it would be impossible to make a regular sized home completely solar powered because of the number of panels required and the small roof space, Jones said.
The Memphis plant is also expanding its work to include designing and fabricating the mounting structure for the solar panels that have been made there since 2003.
The ceremonial switch lit up several Sharp LED lights on a tote board. The solar energy converted by the panels goes directly into the plants power system.
Collins was chosen to do the honors because of the utility’s work to get the plant back on line following a storm in February 2008 in the area that spawned a tornado. The plant was one of several in the area heavily damaged by the storm.