Suntech, on the heels of several losing quarters and a boardroom bloodbath involving the removal of its wealthy founder as chairman, is closing its 50-megawatt Goodyear, Arizona solar panel factory.
This was a factory once heralded by Suntech as a sure sign that Suntech was committed to building PV in the U.S. and to creating American solar jobs.
The plant closure will impact 43 employees.
Suntech attributed the closing to "higher production costs exacerbated by import tariffs on solar cells and aluminum frames imposed by the U.S. government, as well as global solar module oversupply," according to a release. The company claimed that the decision is "in line with Suntech's global restructuring efforts to rationalize production capacity and reduce operating expenses by 20 percent in 2013."
There is a unilateral tariff of 36 percent on Suntech solar cells produced in China, as well as a tariff imposed by the U.S. government on aluminum frames. So, the tariff imposed by the U.S. government on Chinese panels, at the urging of Germany's SolarWorld, is causing the loss of U.S. jobs -- all part of the unintended consequences of a trade war. In the meantime and despite the tariffs, SolarWorld teeters on the brink of financial collapse.
Some of the 280-watt panels produced at the the 117,000-square-foot Goodyear factory were destined to be shipped to Sempra Generation's massive 700-megawatt Mesquite Solar project, located near Phoenix, Arizona -- about 30 miles from Suntech's Goodyear Arizona plant.
According to Arizona Central, Suntech won up to $1.5 million in state tax breaks, $500,000 from the town of Goodyear for job training and $2.1 million in federal tax breaks for this high-profile facility. This event does not help the Arizona renewables cause, already hobbled by a massive RPS curtailment.