A Convenient Truth 

Local plant is the largest U.S. manufacturer of solar panels.

Memphis has a reputation for its weather: hot and humid for more of the year than we'd like.

The folks at Sharp Manufacturing Company of America don't think that's bad at all. That's because they manufacture photovoltaic modules — solar panels that thrive on the sunniest of days.

Sharp's Memphis plant's output is tens of thousands of modules per month, making it the largest manufacturer of photovoltaic modules in the United States. What's more, with earth-friendly technology prices coming down and efficiency going up, going green is hotter than ever.

"We can't make enough of them [to keep up with demand]," says Randy Johnson, Sharp's senior director of solar engineering.

The modules — made up of dozens of individual silicon cells — are mounted together to form a solar array, which converts sunlight to DC electricity, which can then be inverted to AC for use in a residential or commercial building or by a utility.

"It's elegantly simple," Johnson says. "There are no moving parts, and it's easy to hook up." A typical solar array can produce about 3,000 watts in peak sun, creating enough power to generate one- to two-thirds of the electrical needs of a moderately sized house.

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