STANTON, Tenn. – Two new solar energy farms are generating a small but growing supply of electricity in West Tennessee, the latest signs of progress in an industry that proponents say is primed to add jobs and bolster rural and urban power supply.

Hundreds gathered Wednesday in Memphis for a solar energy symposium and the dedication of a 1 megawatt solar farm. Industry leaders also met Thursday in Stanton to formally open Tennessee’s largest solar generating facility. It uses its more than 21,000 panels to harness the sun’s energy and produce 5 megawatts of power.

Politicians came from Washington to tour the facilities, which supply energy purchased by the Tennessee Valley Authority. About 6,500 Tennesseans are employed in the state’s solar energy industry, a huge jump from just a few years ago.

“Tennessee is a leader,” said Daniel Poneman, deputy secretary of the Department of Energy, during a tour of the West Tennessee Solar Farm in Stanton. “This puts you right on the front edge. It creates great jobs for the people here, and it is building the future for the community and it cleans the environment.”

Solar power proponents say the clean, renewable energy could help ease pressure on the nation’s stressed electricity infrastructure. Skeptics say solar energy is expensive to produce and has the potential to fulfill just a tiny fraction of the world’s energy needs.

Some experts also see as a significant obstacle to growth a lack of a clear solar energy policy.