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First Solar: factory delay will cause job losses

A recent announcement from First Solar informed that the company will not start manufacturing as planned in 2013 at its new factory in Mesa, due to adverse market conditions, combined with a larger fourth-quarter loss.

First Solar has announced that it will finish its more than USD 300 million facility in Mesa, Phoenix, Arizona, but that it will not start manufacturing as planned in 2013, resulting in a loss of about 600 jobs.
The global market for solar hit a wall this year as more capacity came online just as government incentives in prime markets such as Germany and Italy were scaled back. This caused a glut of panels on the market, and led to many companies cutting back.
Along with the delay for the Mesa facility, First Solar also said it was cutting production at its other plants to about 60-70% of capacity due to a larger fourth-quarter loss. The move involves abandoning four of its production lines in Germany and rolling its Malaysian production lines out of service to install new equipment and make upgrades.
The move will also probably mean that suppliers who had planned for First Solar’s opening will also be in limbo, putting their project plans on hold.
First Solar will, however, finish the facility in May and bring in 130 engineers and administrative personnel who will staff the building.
First Solar has not set a timetable for when the plant would open, and saying only it will take improvement in market conditions to get production going. Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, said he believed it could be a couple years before panels would be coming out of the factory.
First Solar will also not be eligible for the incentives that convinced the company to set up in Mesa, as many were based on a state tax credit formula for the number of jobs created and the wages associated with that work.
The site, however, received about USD 10 million for infrastructure improvements, which will be used to make the area business-ready.

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