Chinese solar company bails out of Arizona

March 12, 2013

The Chinese solar company Suntech announced today its factory in Goodyear will shut down next month.

Suntech had been making solar panels in the Phoenix suburb of Goodyear for two years. But in that time the global price of solar panels had fallen by more than 60 percent, according to GTM Research analyst Shyam Mehta.

"Suntech in particular has been hit very hard financially. It’s currently struggling for survival," he said.

The entire industry has been sagging under a global over-supply problem, and a trade war has made matters worse. Last year, the U.S. International Trade Commission slapped a 36 percent tariff on Chinese solar cell manufacturers for dumping cheap products on the U-S market. That drove up the cost of components Suntech imported to Arizona.

"Closing down this factory is one lower-hanging fruit approaches and one of the more obvious ways of going about restructuring," Mehta said.

The factory will close in April, taking 43 jobs with it. Barry Broome, of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, said the tariff doesn’t preserve the US solar market, it actually hurts it.

"This is a global industry," Broome explianed.  "Its connections are interdependent on each other. And when you start to fracture a connection like US-China, you’re going to see an announcement like Suntech."

GPEC had warned the tariff would stunt foreign investment in Arizona’s emerging solar industry.

Now that fear has been realized, Broome said.

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