Suntech opens U.S. module plant: capacity to expand on early demand

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The world’s biggest crystalline module manufacturer, Suntech has officially opened its first module assembly plant in the U.S., just ahead of North America’s major solar energy exhibition, Solar Power International in Los Angeles, California. The 30MW plant, located in Goodyear, Arizona is assembling Suntech’s 280W Vd-series modules, used primarily for commercial and utility-scale applications rather than residential as they are compliant for procurement in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) projects.  Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer presided over the grand opening ceremony.

Suntech said that is was preparing plans to expand the facility to 50MW early next year, due to strong interest and targets to reach up to 120MW of annual production capacity at the facility, based on demand. Suntech also reiterated its plans for research collaboration with Arizona State University.

“Our new U.S. manufacturing plant will provide a local platform to meet the burgeoning demand for solar products in the U.S. and Canadian markets, which we expect to exceed 1GW for the first time in 2010,” said Steven Chan, President of Suntech America. “This new facility represents yet another milestone of our ongoing investment in North America. Aside from our manufacturing facility, we already have more than 75 people on the ground in North America, a dealer network that includes close to 400 partners, and we are continuing to grow. In fact, we are growing so fast that in the third quarter of 2010 alone we shipped more than our total 2009 shipments to the North American market.”

The 117,000 square foot facility currently employs 75 people but with the planned expansion to 50MW, total workforce is expected to reach about 150 by the end of 2011.

“Solar jobs follow solar installations, and more than 60% of all industry jobs are created in sales, finance, and installation, in jobs that cannot be exported. On average, the solar industry employs about 15 to 30 people for every MW of installed solar capacity – 6 to 8 times more than the traditional energy industry,” noted Dr. Zhengrong Shi, Suntech’s founder, chairman, and CEO, at the grand opening. “The governments that advance clear and consistent policies to diversify with clean energy will create thousands of green jobs while achieving energy security.”

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