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Chinese solar company bucks trend offering favorable working environment

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CHICAGO, June 12 (Xinhua) -- As protests in the United States continue over low wages and poor working conditions, Wanxiang, a Chinese solar company, is bucking the trend by providing a friendly working environment for workers.

Wanxiang America and New Generation Power formed a joint venture to develop and build a 62 MW (megawatt) solar facility at the Chicago Rockford International Airport, the largest commercial airport solar generation facility in the United States.

The first 3.06 MW phase has been operational since 2012, using locally manufactured PV modules. The second phase of the facility will be constructed in the third quarter of 2015.

Wanxiang said there is room for expansion, up to an additional 65 acres.

Each solar panel needs careful work, but workers in the factory are treated well, and happy with their jobs.

"I really like my hours, it's close to home, so I don't have a commute at all, it's very laid-back and we're all a good team, we've worked together for a long time," Rachel McGaw, office manager of Wanxiang America, told Xinhua.

Each worker mentioned the company's flexible hours as a positive aspect of the job: they arrive at 6:00 a.m., and leave at 2:30 p.m., making it possible for employees to spend more of their free time during daylight hours.

"In the past I was a supervisor, manager, and as a supervisor manager you always take your job home. Here, I don't take my job home, at 2:30, I'm done, I'm ready to go," Heidi Rattanasavanh told Xinhua.

A report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration released in May showed that the sun is now the fastest growing source of American electricity.

Reports from the U.S.-based Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said residential solar power increased by 76 percent in the first quarter of 2014, and by the end of the first quarter of 2015, the industry had 21.3 gigawatts of capacity, enough to power 4.3 million American homes.

SEIA said the current solar capacity will be more than double by the end of 2016. It also said 55 percent of jobs in the solar industry have been created in the past four years, which they say is a sign of rapid growth.

The workers are encouraged by the advantages of the rapid growth in the solar industry.

"I would say we're given more opportunity with a Chinese company," Wanxiang's Duane Hinkel said.

"It's cool. I like being part of the Chinese growth in the United States. They succeed at whatever they do, so I'm glad I'm a part of it," McGaw said.

Zhejiang Wanxiang Solar Co., Ltd, established in 2006, specializes in research and development, manufacturing, sales and services of PV products in terms of solar cell, module and system.

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