First Solar has indefinitely delayed the start-up of the manufacturing plant it is constructing in Mesa because of a worldwide glut of solar panels. The move puts about 600 jobs on hold.
The Tempe-based company said it’s reducing output at plants around the world, to somewhere between 60 percent to 70 percent of its manufacturing capacity. Chief Financial Officer Mark Widmer said it wasn’t clear when the company sees a need to put the Mesa plant online.
“We have now decided to put Mesa on hold until market demand justifies additional capacity,” Widmer said.
First Solar will have some workers in the Mesa plant despite the manufacturing delay. More than 100 engineers and administrative employees will move into the building. Also, the plant will be used to store solar panels. First Solar said it will retain ownership of the site at the southwestern corner of Signal Butte and Elliot roads.
Mesa City Manager Chris Brady said he wasn’t concerned with the delay. The facility will have some activity, Brady said, adding he figures it’s a matter of time before the plant is put to use.
“This is an industry going through a correction, so I think we can be patient with it,” Brady said.
The plant was seen as proof the Valley could be a big player in the solar industry when First Solar decided to build in 2011. The $323 million facility was expected to employ 600 initially. First Solar has enough land to expand and employ 5,000.
First Solar said in late 2011 that it would push back the plant’s start-up from the third quarter of 2012 to 2013. This week, First Solar cited further declines in the market when announcing the latest delay.
First Solar lowered its sales projections for 2012, with the maximum range falling from $4 billion to $3.8 billion.
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