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China solar giant Suntech to set up 1st U.S. plant       Updated:November 16 22:43

BEIJING, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) -- China's solar panel maker Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. said Monday it will set up its first U.S. factory in the Greater Phoenix, Arizona area.

Organized by Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute, the first-ever forum lured over 300 participants mainly from China, Malaysia, the United States, Singapore and Australia.

The plant will have an initial production capacity of 30 megawatts (MW) and is expected to begin production in the third quarter of 2010, it said.  Steven Chan, Suntech's Chief Strategy Officer, said in Beijing the company will make an initial investment of 10 million U.S. dollars.

Chan said the investment decision was made as the solar energy market grows rapidly in North America thanks to the region's pro-solar policies.

Suntech's Chairman and CEO Dr. Zhengrong Shi said: "This is the first step in what I see as a long-term, strategic investment in the North American market."

"The leadership shown by the U.S. government in advancing renewable energy will only improve the environment for further investments in the coming years."

The U.S. plant, which will be about 80,000 to 100,000 square feet, will employ over 75 full-time employees at launch and may double its staff within the year as the North American market develops, it said.

The U.S. market had 356 MW of solar PV capacity installed during 2008 and is expected to grow six-fold to more than 2 gigawatts (GW) by 2012, Suntech cited media reports as saying.

Suntech, headquartered in the eastern city of Wuxi, was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in December 2005. Its sales revenue in 2008 was about 2 billion U.S. dollars.

Editor: Wang Guanqun