Enel Chairman Michele Crisostomo, Enel CEO Francesco Starace, the Italian Minister of the Environment and Energy Security Gilberto Pichetto Fratin, the Director-General for Energy of the European Commission Ditte Juul Jørgensen, the President of the Region of Sicily Renato Schifani, and the Catania Municipality’s Special Commissioner - Prefect Piero Mattei visited the construction site of the 3Sun Gigafactory in Catania. 3Sun will become Europe’s largest solar panel factory by 2024, with an annual production capacity of 3 GW, and will leverage on an innovative, one-of-a-kind technology globally.
“Renewable energy growth estimates for the next few years make a clear case for investing in the creation of a domestic production chain, which represents a strategic move for Italy and Europe, in order to balance demands for energy security and independence with the demands of the economy, of the employment market and of the environment,” said Enel CEO and General Manager, Francesco Starace. “With 3Sun, we are practically demonstrating that in Italy, and therefore also in Europe, thanks to an innovative technology, we can now produce state-of-the-art photovoltaic panels that are competitive in international markets. Initiatives like this are what the future of energy will be built upon.”
“This investment has strong political significance, which is that of liberating our country from foreign dependency, especially from China, also when it comes to producing renewable energy systems,” commented Gilberto Pichetto Fratin, Minister of the Environment and Energy Security. “Such independence is achieved through quality and innovation, through the ability to produce better, higher performing and more durable elements that are more easily disposed of and recycled. As in many other fields, Italy is not successful because it produces large quantities at a good price, but because it produces the best there is in the world. And only the best has the best market. Production at the Gigafactory is also in line with the Government's commitment to increasingly and decisively install renewable energy plants, up to at least 8 to 10 GW per year which are essential to achieve the decarbonization targets that Italy has pledged to meet not only in Europe but also internationally. This state-of-the-art research is the key technological driver for a country that has decided to become Europe’s energy hub.”
Ditte Juul Jørgensen, Director-General for Energy of the European Commission, said: “Europe’s clean energy transition materializes through projects like this one. It will allow to tap into the immense potential for renewable energy sources deployment the area of Catania harbors, turning Sicily into a European leader in solar power production with high added technological value, and opening an international corridor for clean energy that not only Italy, but the entire European Union can benefit from. It is a major opportunity to strengthen skilled workforce, spur investment in the grid and increase Europe’s energy independence in line with the REPowerEU plan.”
“Enel's investment in the 3Sun Gigafactory in Catania,” said the President of the Region of Sicily Renato Schifani, “confirms how much Sicily has what it takes to be a Mediterranean platform for renewable energies and related technologies. The regional government has already defined a strategy that focuses on ‘green’ energy sources and is working hard to accompany this transition, encouraging investments with a major focus on environmental protection and legality. I am sure that synergistic action with the national government and European institutions will favor this development process, which is also capable of generating new employment and positive effects on the territory: the 3Sun site which is growing in the heart of the Etna Valley is one virtuous example.”
The 3Sun Gigafactory expansion will increase the factory’s current annual production capacity of 200 MW to about 3 GW per year by initially developing photovoltaic modules using silicon heterojunction technology (HJT), which offers improved performance compared with conventional technologies. A ground-breaking technology called ‘Tandem’ will then be implemented, significantly outperforming the efficiency of today’s photovoltaic cells, delivering over 30% more efficiency and improving panel reliability at the same time. The expansion process, which began in April 2022 and is expected to be completed by 2024, will consist of two stages: an operational capacity of 400 MW will be available from September 2023, while full operational capacity will be reached by July 2024. ‘Tandem’ photovoltaic modules, on the other hand, will be produced starting from late 2025.
The investment is estimated to amount to approximately 600 million euros. This project, which is called ‘TANGO’, i.e. iTaliAN Giga factOry, was one of seven initiatives selected by the EU Commission as part of the first Innovation Fund call for large-scale projects, and was awarded funding worth up to 118 million euros. The project was also submitted in the call to access the funds in Italy’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) relating to Mission M2C2 Investment 5.1 ‘Renewable energy and batteries’ - sub-investment 5.1.1 ‘PV Technology’, with a Development Contract managed by the current Ministry of Enterprises and Made in Italy (MIMIT). These two funds could bring the total funding for the project up to a maximum amount of 188 million euros.
The project’s benefits include employment opportunities. During the meeting, it was announced that the selection process for hiring the first 550 secondary school graduates will start today. The new hires will fill technical and operational positions at the factory in such areas as production, maintenance, auxiliary services, product quality and plant operation. In 2022, 50 university graduates were also employed and the selection process for an additional 100 is currently underway. With these new hires, 3Sun’s team, which already includes more than 200 people, will be expanded considerably, reaching about 900 people in total. Not only will the Gigafactory increase direct employment, but it will also generate a total of 1,000 indirect jobs, including current ones, by 2024.