3Sun's journey began in 2010, when very few people thought that it would make sense to produce photovoltaic modules in Italy—in Sicily! It’s a journey, and a choice, which today seems forward-thinking, now that Covid, the conflict in Ukraine, and the looming climate crisis, have clearly shown that renewables are the right choice for sustainable development and energy independence.
And this journey, namely that of the 3Sun factory in Catania, which in 2024 will become a Gigafactory with an annual production of 3 GW of solar panels—up from the previous 200 MW—is the subject of the documentary The Sun Factory, which was written and directed by Pierfrancesco Li Donni.
State of the Art
This "film premiere" will take place during the factory’s official presentation to business and the media. This will be held in the heart of the factory and its construction site. The presentation will report on the current state of the work, and confirm the goal of opening its doors for production in the middle of next year.
The Sun Factory is a 16-minute film that’s divided into eight intense "chapters." These take us from the story behind the highly team-based work on the innovation, design and production of photovoltaic cells and modules, to the significance of reshoring (i.e., the return to Europe of solar panel production, which is still dominated by Asia) and of the independence of the supply chain, passing through the construction site, reorganization and human "capital."
"I asked them to tell me stories and anecdotes about the employees, and I then got to know them directly in long interview sessions," says Li Donni, 39, who teaches at the Experimental Cinematography Center in Palermo and has several documentaries to his credit, including "Loro di Napoli” and “Our Road.”
The Story in Pictures of a Close-Knit Team
“The first step in the documentary was, therefore, to build a discourse, a structure of words and of stories which would help me bring out the idea of an audiovisual that would combine popular science information with the individual paths of the main characters. Gradually, a convincing and measured filmic device emerged.”
“It’s difficult to enter a workplace and find managers, technicians and workers who are so passionate and so close-knit, and the only way to portray this —with the timing and rhythm of cinema—was to build a narrative starting from their everyday life. It’s based on small gestures, on the intuition of the Innovation team, on the availability of the guys from Operations, on the beauty and uniqueness of such a modern and harmonious structure,” Li Donni goes on to say.
Li Donni admits that he previously knew very little about photovoltaics and that he wasn’t aware of 3Sun. He found out about it through Lucia Gotti Venturato, the President of the SoleLuna Association, a bridge for culture and the producer of the documentary commissioned by Enel Green Power.
A Model Factory
“I was fascinated by the work of Cosimo Gerardi's team (Gerardi is Head of Innovability at the 3Sun Gigafactory) and by his vision, by the expertise of Giovanni Renna (Head of Operations, 3Sun Gigafactory) and by the freshness of all the guys who work for him,” says Li Donni.
“Although I am a total newcomer to this field, I was struck by the fascinating world of the double-sided heterojunction panel and by the process of using silver paste, as well as by the path taken by the company in recent years. It’s a smart gamble that will enable 3Sun to become one of Europe’s leading solar panel manufacturers.
"What’s more, now that I’ve had the good fortune to follow the transformation of 3Sun step-by-step through the creation of new production lines, I am increasingly convinced that 3Sun is a unique place that values ideas and young people. This is rare in Sicily, and I hope that it will become an example for other companies in the South of Italy."
Although the narrative takes place entirely inside the Gigafactory and on the construction site, the message, even visually, is that the "Sun Factory" is not, and does not want to be, a closed world. The documentary looks at its close relationship with the local area, its professional and logistical resources, the drive to create an Italian and European solar supply chain, and its ability to attract back "expatriate" talent. All of these factors make 3Sun a global focus of attention and attraction, with a great future ahead of it.
This is also because ours isn’t just any company: we believe that our job isn’t simply to produce, but to make energy available—materially, first and foremost —so that others can work, produce and live, while respecting the environment and people.