Suntech Power next year will become the first Chinese company to open a solar panel manufacturing plant in the U.S., reports the New York Times. The plant will be built near Phoenix and is expected to begin production by the 3rd quarter of 2010.
The solar cells in the panels will be made in China. But the polysilicon in those cells will be made in a plant in Texas.
Why not just make the panels in China too? Because with prices of solar panels dropping, shipping costs make up a greater portion of the panels' overall cost. Polysilicon solar panels are heavy because of all the aluminium and glass they contain. A typical 280-watt Suntech solar panel weighs about 60 lbs. (27 kg.).
It also doesn't hurt that the solar panels will carry a "Made in the U.S.A." label.
The move by Suntech comes amid increasingly loud objections by U.S. lawmakers over stimulus funds paying for green jobs overseas.
If you appreciate irony, you will find this story especially poignant. Just 2 months ago, Tom Friedman of the New York Times had written about an American company, Applied Materials, that is also in the solar power business.
Applied Materials, based in Silicon Valley, is the "world leader" in making the equipment that makes solar panels. It has 14 plants worldwide.
Not one is in the United States.