On the island of Sicily, at one of Europe’s southernmost points, plans are underway to bring the solar supply chain to the continent’s shores.
Italian energy company Enel announced in April last year that, with grants from the EU and Italian government, it will invest €600m to expand its existing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels production facility in Catania, increasing capacity 15-fold from 200 megawatts (MW) to three gigawatts (GW) by 2024. It will produce high-performance bifacial PV modules — panels that can capture sunlight on both sides — and is expected to achieve a capacity of 400MW by September this year.
Eliano Russo, head of Enel Green Power’s 3Sun facility in Catania, tells fDi “Sicily is not the first location you would think of for a project like this, in terms of infrastructure and logistics”.
But, he explains, the company now has an established presence on the island and the intention was always to scale up operations once new technology was in place. “The idea was that after we proved that our technology was competitive and had potential, we could start leveraging economies of scale.”
Established on the island in 2010, the company’s facility has been producing modules since 2018. There are also plans underway to invest in a similar facility in the US, but Mr Russo could not confirm where exactly.
The decision to expand the plant was taken in January last year, before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which sent European gas prices soaring and gave the EU added incentive to accelerate the green transition by weaning the bloc of Russian fossil fuels.
The expansion has received funding from both the EU and Italian government, amounting to a combined sum of €188m, or a little under a third of the total investment. The project is slated to add some 1900 direct and indirect jobs to the local economy. Enel hired 50 people over the course of the past year and expects to hire 700 more at 3Sun in 2023, according to Mr Russo.