Solar power is gaining traction in Tennessee – and a major solar-module producer has even established a factory in the state.

This week, the Tennessee Valley Authority – one of the Southeast’s largest energy producers – announced that it is rolling out a network of solar-powered electric-car charging stations. The stations were designed in collaboration with the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit company devoted to researching electricity consumption and improving electrical devices’ energy efficiency.

The first charging stations will be installed at the EPRI’s facility in Knoxville; as many as 125 of the systems will be put in place around east Tennessee over the next few years.

A station costs between $500,000 and $600,000 – but one station has enough chargers for six vehicles. Dubbed Smart Modal Area Recharge Terminals, the systems include 12 kilowatts of solar panels and an additional 5 kilowatt-hours of battery storage.

“We want to be the fuel that supplies electric cars,” TVA vice president Rudy Shankar told the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Not only will TVA’s project help keep Tennessee’s electric cars running – it will serve as a learning experience for both the utility and EPRI. Government energy researchers will also get an experiential education in using solar power to charge electric vehicles; the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is slated to be the second installation site.

The TVA charging-station initiative isn’t the only solar program to be making waves in the Volunteer State. Sharp Electronics Corp., one of the world’s largest solar-component producers, operates a module-production facility in Memphis – and the plant is getting a visit this week from Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Sharp chief executive Kozo Takahashi, in welcoming Chu, said January 26 that the Memphis plant was a perfect example of how solar energy can create jobs and bolster the American economy. “We have steadily increased output and job creation, making our factory a perfect venue to amplify President Obama’s top renewable energy priorities for the country,” Takahashi said.

Indeed, Sharp’s plant has roughly three times as many workers today – 450 – as it had when it opened in 2003.

From Oregon to California to New York, solar companies are building production facilities to meet the nation’s growing demand for solar modules. Tennessee, clearly, is benefiting from the trend, as well.

source: get solar