Suntech’s Arizona plant starts shipping solar panels

The first of what will eventually be 800,000 solar panels have begun arriving at the construction site of the Mesquite Solar 1 plant in Arizona.

Contrary to the lately common image of a moribund US solar industry, many of those panels are being manufactured at Suntech Power Holdings’ 117,000-square-foot factory in Goodyear, Arizona. Opened just last October, the factory now employs more than 100 people and is expected to churn out about 50 megawatts’ (MW) worth of solar panels each year.

Over the next 12 months, around one out of every three of those panels will be destined for the Mesquite Solar 1 plant. The first shipment this week was celebrated at the facility by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and officials from Suntech, San Diego-based Sempra Energy, engineering and construction firm Zachry Holdings.

Set for completion in 2013, the Mesquite Solar 1 plant will have a generating capacity of 150 MW, enough to power some 56,000 homes. At full build-out, the facility could eventually generate up to 700 MW of solar power.

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