Suntech adding megawatts, jobs in Arizona

Suntech solar panel manufacturing plant expandingThe 30 new employees at Suntech’s solar panel manufacturing facility in Goodyear, Ariz., represent some of the fastest job creation in the state.

The facility opened in October, just eight months ago, with 40 employees working on a manufacturing line eight hours a day Monday through Friday. These new hires bring the facility’s total number of employees to 107, said Suntech spokeswoman Krystal Book.

“All newly-hired employees are full-time, and we offer competitive pay and benefits,” she said.

The company added a second production shift in February and has now expanded to 24-hour production Monday through Thursday with 22 hours on Friday and two hours on Sunday, Book said. There is still room, and there are plans to add a fourth shift that will allow the plant to produce solar panels 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Furthermore, we have the ability to add another production line,” Book said.

While the 30 new jobs are all manufacturing positions, the company has hired more skilled and technical labor as well to oversee the operations, Book said.

Though Suntech is a China-based company and the world’s largest solar panel manufacturer, its Arizona facility is eligible for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Buy American Act funds, Book said.

Those programs have helped the company fund its fast growth in Arizona. But the growth itself was spurred by demand, Book said.

“We decided that the factory’s growth must be supported by sufficient demand in the marketplace,” book said. “Since the factory’s opening last October, we have received great demand from partners throughout the U.S. and North America, including a deal with Sempra Generation to supply panels for the Mesquite Solar I facility 30 miles west of Goodyear.”

The Mesquite solar plant is expected to generate 150 megawatts of electricity when it’s completed at the end of 2012. The Sempra plant will sell to Pacific Gas & Electric, according to press on the project.

In addition to increasing its headcount and contributing new green jobs to the Arizona economy, the expansion at Suntech’s solar panel manufacturing facility will increase its output from 32 megawatts of new solar photovoltaic panels to 50 megawatts, Book said.