Enel eyes Sicily for solar scale-up. The Italian utility, a world-class leader in renewable energy generation, is expanding its solar panel gigafactory in the underdeveloped Southern island to turn it into Europe’s largest – and the bloc’s most powerful resource to counter Chinese PV tech.
- Reuters reports the operation will increase the factory’s production capacity 15-fold through a €600 million investment (generating roughly 1,000 jobs).
- The plant’s current production capacity amounts to roughly 200 megawatts per year. It’s forecasted to rise to 3 GW by July 2024, upon completion of the expansion.
- The EU fieldied €188 million to finance the scale-up, while Enel Green Power (the company’s renewables division) provided the rest.
Costlier, but better. European plants can hardly compete on prices with their Chinese competitors, given Beijing’s more-than-generous subsidies and its firm grip on the entire supply chain. But 3Sun – that’s the factory’s name – aims to gain the upper hand through quality.
- The factory will produce high-performance bifacial solar panels, meaning both sides will generate energy from the light and allow the panel to convert 30% of that into electricity, compared with the usual 20%.
- 3Sun’s panels will also be more durable than their Chinese counterparts.
- “Our panels cost a little more but have higher efficiency, a longer average life and a much lower degradation than Chinese technologies,” said Eliano Russo, the head of 3Sun, to Reuters.
Energy security in focus. The bloc aims to generate 40% of its energy through renewables by 2030, compared to today’s 20%. Thus, solar PV is growing exponentially. But according to Eurostat, the bloc sources three-quarters of its panels from China.
- Relying on Chinese tech also raises cybersecurity issues, as we previously reported.
- Both Giorgia Meloni’s government and the European Union support 3Sun’s scale-up, in light of the bloc’s renewed focus on energy security and protecting its green tech industry from external competition.
Supplying the EU – and beyond. Enel is not limiting its ambitions to Europe, writes Reuters, although it says at least 50% of its Sicilian production will be for the continent. It will build a similar facility in the United States, as part of a broader initiative to expand its manufacturing capacity and benefit from tax credits granted under the US Inflation Reduction Act.
- The company also sees Latin America as one of the most promising new markets for its panels.
Image: Enel Green Power