Suntech To Develop 18 MW for China’s Solar Rooftop Program, To Build Facility in Arizona

Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. expects to develop approximately 20% of the 91 megawatts (MW) of solar projects that were approved under China’s Solar Rooftop Program. China’s Solar Rooftop Program, which was launched in March this year by the Ministry of Finance, is designed to increase the energy efficiency of buildings through the installation of building-attached and building-integrated PV solar systems.

The first set of applications was submitted in April, and recently 111 solar projects totaling 91 MW across China were approved to receive funds through the program. The system owners are expected to receive a ¥13-17 [US $1.90-2.50] per watt rebate for all projects approved through the program. Suntech targets to develop approximately 20% of the successful applications and will also participate as the system owner or partial investor in some projects.

Suntech has completed 4 MW of its approved projects and plans to develop the remainder by mid-2010. Specific project agreements will be signed prior to implementation.

“Building energy use accounts for roughly 28% of total energy consumption in China and is a critical front in the drive to achieve higher energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions,” said Dr. Zhengrong Shi, Suntech’s chairman and CEO. “The Ministry of Finance Solar Building Program recognizes the huge opportunity to offset building energy consumption with integrated solar energy generation. We are very pleased to demonstrate the capability of this technology and we hope to see this valuable solar program expanded in 2010 and beyond.”

Suntech also announced over the weekend that its first U.S. manufacturing plant will be located in the Greater Phoenix, Arizona area. The plant will have an initial production capacity of 30 megawatts (MW) and is expected to begin production in the third quarter of 2010.

The announcement makes Suntech one of the first Chinese solar company to bring manufacturing jobs to America.  The company said that it selected the Phoenix area for its plant because of Arizona’s 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.

The plant will employ more than 75 full-time employees at launch and may double its staff within the year as the North American market develops. Initially starting with 30 MW of PV module production capacity, the Suntech plant is configured for growth to respond to the expected expansion of the U.S. solar market in the coming years.

“Bringing manufacturing jobs to the U.S. is part of Suntech’s vision to grow the solar market in every corner of the world,” Shi said. “We are eagerly watching growing markets and see the potential of bringing manufacturing capabilities to other markets where we see the combination of rapid local market growth and manufacturing cost competitiveness.”

Suntech plans to make a final decision on the specific location of the plant in the coming weeks.

This facility builds on a trend of foreign investment in the North American solar industry. In the last month, Sanyo opened facilities in Oregon and Mexico, SMA announced plans to build a gigawatt-scale inverter plant in Colorado and SolarWorld is expanding its Oregon plant. All of these companies have cited the prospects for growth in the U.S. and Canadian markets and the proximity to customers in those markets that facilities here will give them as one of the major factors in their decisions to bring manufacturing jobs to North America.

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