PHOENIX (Clean Edge) -- Suntech Power ( STP) recently announced that its first U.S. manufacturing plant for the North American market will be built in the Phoenix area.

The Suntech U.S. plant is expected to employ over 75 full- time employees at launch and may double its staff within the year as the North American market develops. The plant will have an initial production capacity of 30 megawatts and is expected to begin production in the third quarter of 2010.

Suntech plans to make a final decision on the specific location of the plant in the coming weeks. According to Suntech, the Phoenix area was selected because of its leadership in research through Arizona State University, and statewide renewable energy policies, particularly its Renewable Energy Standard and distributed generation set-aside, as well as a supportive local business climate represented by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

Initially starting with 30 MW of production capacity, the Suntech plant will be configured for growth to respond to the expected expansion of the U.S. solar market in the coming years. The U.S. market had 356MW of solar photovoltaic capacity installed during 2008, according to Photon Magazine and is expected to grow sixfold to more than 2GW by 2012, according to Solarbuzz.

"This is the first step in what I see as a long-term, strategic investment in the North American market," said Suntech's Chairman and CEO Dr. Zhengrong Shi. "Over the last two years we have grown our U.S. team to over 60 employees. As a result of that effort, we have developed a network of over 200 solar dealers and integrators installing Suntech products and are actively involved with a number of large-scale solar project developers serving the utility market. We also have developed strong partnerships with U.S. companies such as MEMC of Pasadena, Texas, our largest supplier of silicon wafers used in our modules. The leadership shown by the U.S. government in advancing renewable energy will only improve the environment for further investments in the coming years."

Locating the plant close to Suntech's U.S. customers will reduce the time, costs, and emissions associated with long-distance shipping of Suntech panels. The plant, which will be approximately 80,000 to 100,000 square feet, will allow for long-term growth of manufacturing capabilities to meet increasing American demand for solar power.
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