Suntech reduces PV production; announces job cuts

The decision to decrease annual manufacturing capacity from 45 to 15 MW and reduce the workforce at its Goodyear facility has been taken on the back of global oversupply, and high production costs.

Specifically, Suntech said that following the U.S. government’s decision to impose duties on Chinese imports of photovoltaic cells – equating to 35.97% in Suntech’s case – manufacturing panels in the U.S. has become both more difficult and costly.

"Tariffs on solar cells come in addition to tariffs imposed by the U.S. government in 2011 on aluminum frames, another key input for solar panel manufacturing," said the manufacturer.

"These new tariffs limit our ability to utilize Suntech’s advanced solar cell technology imported from China," continued E.L. "Mick" McDaniel, managing director of Suntech America.

He added, "We will continue to assess our options and if the political and business environment improves, we may reconsider expanding our manufacturing operations in the U.S."

Suntech announced the opening of its Goodyear facility in Arizona in August 2010. At the time, the plans were to expand the 117,000 square foot facility to 50 MW and employ more than 150 people by the end of 2011.

The company then announced last May that it had introduced a third production shift at the facility, thus increasing capacity to 50 MW and the workforce to 107. It was said that the goal was to further increase capacity to 120 MW.

In addition to reducing capacity and employees in Arizona, in September, Suntech temporarily reduced its photovoltaic cell production capacity in Wuxi, China from 2.4 to 1.8 GW, thus affecting around 1,500 workers. While the "majority" were said to be offered positions at other production locations, an undisclosed number were handed severance packages.