Italy`s largest photovoltaic panel plant opens its doors
An innovative photovoltaic panel factory run by 3Sun, the equal share joint venture between Enel Green Power, Sharp and STMicroelectronics, was inaugurated last Friday in Catania. The ceremony was attended by President of Sicily Region Raffaele Lombardo, President of Catania Province Giuseppe Castiglione, and Mayor of Catania Raffaele Stancanelli. In addition to Government representatives, the plant's opening ceremony was attended by senior executives from 3Sun, Enel, Sharp Corporation and STMicroelectronics. The plant will manufacture integrated compound semiconductor multi-junction, thin-film PV cells and modules. The Catania plant will supply the most promising markets of Europe, the Middle East and Africa The plant currently has a work force of 280 qualified staff and a solar panel production capacity of 160 MW per year, which could be increased to an annual 480 MW over the next few years. It is already the largest solar panel factory in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. It was financed through a mixture of capital from the partners, funding from CIPE - which earmarked € 49 million for the project - and project financing with three major lending institutions: Banca IMI, Centrobanca and Unicredit. Following the agreement signed in August 2010, each of the three partners subscribed to a third of the capital - committing € 70 million each in cash or in tangible and intangible assets. The partners have also contributed their specific expertise: Enel Green Power, with the development and operation of plants generating power from renewable resources at the international level and the retail marketing of photovoltaic panels on a national scale through its subsidiary Enel.si; Sharp, with its unique compound semiconductor multi-junction thin-film technology already being manufactured at its factory in Sakai, Japan and the marketing of photovoltaic panels through Sharp's subsidiaries in Europe; STMicroelectronics, with its manufacturing capabilities, a staff highly trained in advanced technology sectors such as microelectronics as well as its competence in innovative energy-saving power-management systems. The factory output is intended to meet the demand of solar power markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), using both projects under development and the sales networks of Enel Green Power and Sharp. In this regard, Enel Green Power and Sharp have formed a second joint venture, ESSE (Enel Green Power & Sharp Solar Energy), to develop, build and operate photovoltaic systems in the EMEA area with an output target of over 500MW by 2016. This project will use panels manufactured by the factory, which will also be employed on the 1 MW photovoltaic plant that ESSE will build on the rooftop of the new factory. Enel.si, the Enel Green Power subsidiary which specialises in the installation of photovoltaic systems for the retail market, will also participate in the marketing effort, offering panels through its franchise network of over 570 qualified installers throughout Italy.