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SunPower Set to Create New U.S. Solar Panel Factory, CEO Says

April 5, 2018
Trump's domestic solar jobs push has brought at SolarPower Corp.'s manufacturing stateside, CEO Tom Werner says.

President Donald Trump wanted more U.S. solar-power manufacturing jobs when he cracked down on imports -- now he’s getting them.

SunPower Corp. will announce in about three weeks plans for a U.S. plant to make some of the panels it now makes abroad, Chief Executive Officer Tom Werner said Friday in a phone interview. The U.S.-based company currently makes most of its power-generating panels in Asia and Mexico.

The choice of location is between two sites in two western states, Werner said. Production would begin in less than 10 months, and the company will speed that up by selecting an unused, existing plant. But it’s too soon to disclose manufacturing capacity or employment at the new facility, he said.

“This is a decision driven by the direction that this administration wants to go,” Werner said.

Tariffs were a factor, and SunPower, based in San Jose, California, will continue a tariff exemption request for other equipment it imports, Werner said. So was capturing market share in the U.S. West, where panels are most in demand, he said.

The news comes hours after China-based JinkoSolar Holding Co. said it will open a plant in Jacksonville, Florida, that will employ 200 people making 7 million solar panels over four years for NextEra Energy Inc., owner of the state’s largest utility.

When he enacted the tariffs in January, Trump said the duties will encourage solar manufacturing in the U.S. “Our action today helps to create jobs in America, for Americans,” he said.

by Jim Polson

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