The state’s largest solar power system made its official debut.

Solar_PanelsThe state’s largest solar power system made its official debut today with the help of an array of local officials touting the benefits of the sweltering August sun.

Set on five acres in East Knox County, the installation produces one megawatt of electricity, enough to power about 125 homes.

The array, made up of 4,608 solar panels, was built by the Natural Energy Group in partnership with Efficient Energy of Tennessee, both Knoxville companies with common ownership.

More than 150 representatives from industry, education, government and research institutions attended the event. The system represents a step forward in the state’s budding solar industry, speakers said.

“Not only is this project healthy for the environment … together we are helping create new, clean jobs for the state of Tennessee and for the nation,” said Michael Lasky, director of reseller channel sales for Sharp’s Solar Energy Solutions Group. The project’s panels were built by Sharp’s manufacturing plant in Memphis.

The site will also serve as a demonstration and education site for solar technology, said Robbie Thomas, president of Efficient Energy of Tennessee. A building on site is outfitted with classroom space for school tours, and he said the company is working with Cleveland State Community College and Pellissippi State Community College to use the site for their solar installer training programs.

The installation will also help TVA and researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory get a sense for solar’s potential in this part of the country, which has only recently begun adopting the technology on a larger scale.

“It gives us important data to talk to companies about coming to Tennessee,” said Chad Duty, solar technologies manager at ORNL. “The Southeast is really going to be one of the next hot spots for solar.”

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Source: Larisa Brass | Knoxville News Sentinel