Now more than ever, the increase of costs related to energy production – be it electric or fossil fuels – has exposed the need for a change in our lifestyles which will accelerate the process that will bring us to self-sufficiency. Renewables will play an important role on this path leading to decarbonization.
It is within this context that Enel Green Power has decided to scale-up its photovoltaic plant 3SUN in Catania, Sicily, to a Gigafactory. This will enable production to go from 200 MW per year to 3,000 MW, with an overall fifteen-fold increase. The Gigafactory will showcase the European leadership in the next generation high efficiency photovoltaic technology and will contribute to the reduction of Europe’s energy dependency outside its borders. Enel’s investment of nearly 600 million euros will generate approximately 1,000 new jobs by 2024 and will act as a catalyst for reshoring in Europe the PV value chain today primarily based in China.
The conversion of 3SUN into a Gigafactory will not only enable a qualitative step forward, it will also bring additional technological progress thanks to its innovation program on new photovoltaic cells and production processes, aiming to reach around 30% cell efficiency level in the next 4 years through the industrialization of the Tandem technology. The company, from its inception, has also focused on sustainability and the use of new techniques for the re-cycling precious materials such as silver and indium into the modules and cells manufacturing process.
Enel Green Power’s Gigafactory project was one of the 7 projects selected by the European Innovation Fund. This represents a terrific opportunity for Enel to contribute with its technology to Europe’s decarbonization path.
On 1 April, 2022 the official signature of the funding will take place in Brussels, kick-starting the conversion of the existing facility to a Gigafactory. Accelerating the process will be key: solar and wind power could become a way out of the quandary that Italy (and other countries) find themselves in at present. In Italy one of the bottlenecks which has held back innovation is red tape-related. While Italy had started off extremely well in this sector it was held back by bureaucracy, losing its pioneering role. The island of Sicily could play a strategic role and represent the opportunity to invert this tendency.
The aim is to turn Sicily (its Eastern side) into one of the most relevant world’s hub for sustainable energy.
Sicily’s abundancy of sun and wind resources make it the perfect place to install wind and solar PV power plants and also an excellent investment hub for businesses: the ‘Etna Valley’ as the ‘Silicon Valley’ of the photovoltaic sector. However, sun and wind might not suffice, particularly to decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors that are very energy-intensive. The future will need also green hydrogen, produced in renewable plants, the only sustainable hydrogen. Therefore, thanks to additional funding from the EU, the construction of an hydrogen-producing plant coupled with an innovation hydrogen industrial lab is already underway in the town of Carlentini, Sicily. It will represent a unique innovation platform to accelerate the development of new technologies and reduce the costs of green hydrogen through an extensive engagement of the whole ecosystem.
Enel Green Power’s decision to invest in Sicily will not only contribute to developing the Italian territory but will represent significant support to the whole European decarbonization path.