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Burns & Gambo

Is solar power losing steam in Arizona?

PHOENIX -- Arizona certainly has the sunshine it takes to produce solar energy but continues to struggle when it comes to solar-power business.

While the state is second in the country in solar-panel installation, manufacturing is a different story.

Last week Suntech closed its Goodyear solar-panel manufacturing plant, losing almost 50 jobs and First Solar is struggling.

Thunderbird School of Global Management professor John Mathis said it's time for a new line of thought in luring solar-panel makers to Arizona.

China dominates the world's production of solar panels.

"Locating manufacturing facilities on tribal land that is close to where the source is," he said. "There's inexpensive labor and it may take some training. But it's home and they earn the money here and spend the money here."

China's advantage when it comes to solar-panel manufacturing has been lower wages, which are beginning to rise. Mathis said that could keep more companies on American soil.

"At some point it will be to the advantage of U.S. companies to locate at home because of the labor cost standpoint."

About the Author

Position: Senior News Reporter. Started with KTAR July 4, 1999.

Favorite spots in Arizona: Pinetop-Lakeside, Alpine, Greer.

Have covered some of the biggest stories in Arizona including nine of the top 10 largest wildfires in state history. The Wallow Fire in 2011 became the largest fire in state history. Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June 2002, which is the second largest fire in Arizona. Covered the Yarnell Hill Tragedy in June 2013 that left 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots dead.

Favorite movies: True Grit, both 1969 John Wayne classic and the remake with Jeff Bridges and Lonesome Dove.

Sports Teams: Washington State University Cougars, Texas Longhorns, The University of Montana Grizzlies.


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