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The Voice - Student Newspaper

Arizona Goes Solar: China's largest solar panel manufacturer to open factoriy near Phoenix

By Erika Zamora
Reporter, The VOICE

China's largest solar panel manufacture, Suntech, is going to open its first American plant near Phoenix; production is planned to start any time from April 1st to June 30th of 2010.

Suntech shipped more traditional solar panels last year than any other company in the world.

The plan is to build a 100,000 square foot and 100 mega-watt capacity factory to be capable of turning out 30 megawatts of modules annually. That is enough power to power 75,000 homes while the sun is shining.

Suntech also plans to employ 75 full time employees and 300 factory employees.

"Bringing manufacturing jobs in the part of Suntechs's vision to grow the solar market in every corner of the world" said Suntech chief executive Zhengrong Shi.

Some of the reasons why they have decided to build a factory in the United States is the high costs to ship heavy solar panels, they wanted to place a factory closer to its customers; and the "buy America movement."

"As the price of solar panels has reduced dramatically in the last 12 months, the shipping costs have become larger and larger portion of the overall cost of getting these projects to market." Said Roger Efrid, Suntech's American president.

Jesse Pichel, a solar analyst with Piper Jaffray, a U.S. middle-market investment banking firm that sells financial advice and investment products said, "very smart strategy for the company to embrace the U.S. market and have a 'Made in the U.SA.' product."

If people are wondering why Arizona, well one obvious reason is the sun, but also because they see potential here. Roger Efrid stated in an article for the New York Times, "For us, Arizona sits kind of in the heart of where we see a big chunk of the future market in the U.S. The desert southwest, we believe, is going to be home to some huge projects."

Efrid is not the only one who thinks Arizona has potential, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said, "Arizona is now the premier place to do business in the U.S. Arizona is celebrating its competitive position in the global economy."

Other solar companies are considering of opening their factories in Arizona; if that were to happen it would boost our economy.

If more solar power plants open, then that gives glass companies or other suppliers a good incentive to open facilities here to serve the solar companies. That means more jobs.

Suntech has 12 to 13 percent market share in the United States and there is goal is to have 20 percent by the end of 2010.

"If the U.S. market grows to 400 megawatts or more a year, as expected, Suntech will be able to produce 7.5 percent of U.S supply in Arizona" Said Wei-Tai-Kwok, Suntech's vice president.

They don't know how much it would cost to build the plant, but the company has applied for 30 percent investment tax credit from the stimulus package that applies to solar manufacturing in the U.S.

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Content revised 12/8/09