A Chinese-owned solar panel maker is planning to build a 100,000-square-foot headquarters and manufacturing plant in the Phoenix area.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer planned to announce the project Monday. Suntech Power Holdings said the facility is expected to start building solar panels by the third quarter of 2010 and will eventually employ 250 or more people.

Suntech will potentially be the first company eligible under the state's Renewable Energy Tax Incentive program that provides refundable tax credits and property tax reductions for manufacturers.

Suntech said it selected the Phoenix area for its plant because of Arizona's leadership in solar research through Arizona State University and statewide renewable energy policies.

The Suntech plant will initially employ 75 full-time employees and may double its staff within the year as the North American demand for solar power increases.

"Bringing manufacturing jobs to the U.S. is part of Suntech's vision to grow the solar market in every corner of the world," said Suntech chairman and CEO Dr. Zhengrong Shi. "We are eagerly watching growing markets and see the potential of bringing manufacturing capabilities to other markets where we see the combination of rapid local market growth and manufacturing cost competitiveness."

Suntech officials said locating the plant close to its U.S. customers will reduce the time, costs, and emissions associated with shipping Suntech panels. Shi said setting up in Arizona is the first step in a long-term, strategic investment in the North American market.

"The leadership shown by the US government in advancing renewable energy will only improve the environment for further investments in the coming years," Shi said. Suntech plans to make a final decision on the precise location of the plant in the coming weeks.