The business recently relocated to Camas from Southern California.
Eric Hafter, a Sharp senior vice president who heads the company’s Solar Energy Solutions Group, said from the conference that the solar industry’s boom is reflected in the rise in attendance at the annual event. About 50,000 people are attending this year’s conference, which ends Thursday, and about 1,200 companies are represented, he said. The first Solar Power International Conference held 11 years ago attracted just 40 participating companies, he said.
Hafter, an industry veteran hired by Sharp Solar about a year ago, has attended the conference for eight years.
Sharp rolled out two products at this year’s show. One that Hafter says will become Sharp’s flagship residential appliance is called SunSnap AC Solution. The company says the system, to be available at retail outlets next year for as low as $1,000, is much easier to install than conventional solar energy modules and can be easily scaled to a size that fits a homeowner’s budget.
Sharp also said it would produce thin film panels using a glass-on-glass design suitable for hot climates. The thin-film technology offers the potential for greater savings and reduced installation time and expense.
The company will celebrate its 50th anniversary in the solar industry next year, making it the granddaddy in a burgeoning field. “We’ve been pioneering in the field since the buoy and the lighthouse,” Hafter said. While Sharp is very well known within the industry, it’s not well recognized by the public because its products are sold wholesale rather that on the consumer market, he said.
Earlier this year, Sharp Solar relocated from Huntington Beach, Calif., to Camas, where it joins Sharp Microelectronics of the Americas and Sharp Laboratories. It now has 22 employees, mostly transplants from southern California.
“What a delight,” Hafter said of the company’s new home in Camas. “It’s so positive for us to have made the move. There are lots of smiles around the office.”
The company is working to fill 20 jobs and expects to add another 15 in next year’s first quarter, he said. The openings cross a range of specialties including sales, accounting, customer service, engineering and marketing. Sharp is hoping to draw specialists from other industries who want to work in the maturing solar industry, he said.
No comment on China
Hafter wouldn’t comment on high-profile trade complaints against China levied by a coalition of seven U.S. solar manufacturers led by SolarWorld, a German company with manufacturing operations in Hillsboro, Ore. The coalition filed a complaint Wednesday against China, accusing the nation of illegally subsidizing Chinese companies that sell solar cells and panels at below cost in the United States. The coalition seeks tariffs against the cheap Chinese solar panels.
Sharp’s policy is not to comment on trade issues involving China, Hafter said. “We have an integrated and complicated relationship with China,” he said. The company is not part of the coalition that filed the complaint.
Sharp Solar Energy Solutions Group is a division of Sharp Electronics Corp. the U.S, subsidiary of Japan’s Sharp Corp.