Solar business shines in Tennessee

With global markets in turmoil, including bankruptcies in Germany and a threatened U.S.-China trade war, Tennessee is looking on the bright side this week.

On April 10 and 11, the Tennessee Solar Institute and the Tennessee Valley Authority will host the second annual 2012 Tennessee Valley Solar Solutions Conference at the Memphis Cook Convention Center.

“A lot of these companies here already have large market share and they already exporting to Germany, Italy, Mexico and even China, so Tennessee companies are doing very well in that regard,” John Sanseverino of the Tennessee Solar Institute told GenerationHub. “We have a fairly strong solar base in the state already, so the state is using that to lure other companies as well.”

Sharp has had its presence in the state for decades. Dow Corning’s joint venture company, Hemlock Semiconductor, is a leading manufacturer of polycrystalline silicon

The solar energy industry is a rapidly growing sector of the state’s economy. Tennessee has over 230 for profit and non-profit entities in its solar value chain, employs over 6,400 people in solar-related industries and has installed approximately 27 MW of solar power.

“A lot of installations are going on in-state, the solar institute has been involved in 7 MW over the past 18 months. A lot of smaller, private solar farms are being built,” Sanseverino said.

Like all renewables players, Sanseverino says Tennessee solar is looking for more consistent policies at the federal level.

“We’re hoping to have a say on the national policy stage,” he said.

The two-day conference will also discuss smart grid technology, sustainability, innovation, and job growth.  In addition, tours of the University of Tennessee Living Light House from the 2011 Solar Decathlon and the 999-kW solar array at the Memphis Agricenter will be conducted.