Sempra Energy inks supply chain deal with China's Suntech California-based Sempra Energy announced this week that it is changing up its suppliers for a large-scale photovoltaic array it will construct in Arizona, commissioning Suntech Power to provide solar modules for its latest project.

Per terms of the supply chain deal, Suntech will provide Sempra with 800,000 multicrystalline silicon panels for the 150-megawatt Mesquite Solar 1 project. Based in China, Suntech has manufacturing facilities in the U.S., including a plant in Goodyear, Arizona, and the company plans to supply an "important amount of panels" from its plant there, Suntech chief commercial office Andrew Beebe said in an interview.

In past installations, Sempra has worked with U.S.-based First Solar, which provided the utility with its thin-film solar panel modules. Solar panels manufactured at Suntech's Arizona facility have "a slightly higher cost" than those produced in China, Beebe asserted, and the company will produce a "majority" of modules for the project in China.

Suntech recently increased the manufacturing capacity of its Goodyear facility by adding a second shift and by the end of 2011, Suntech expects its operations will have an annual manufacturing capacity of 50 megawatts.

Beebe affirmed that the Mesquite solar system is a "big project for Sempra to try with a new technology provider." Beebe declared that it illustrates "crystalline photovoltaics will be an extremely competitive option for large-scale solar." Suntech's solar modules are more efficient than thin-film panels. 
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