Enel To Build Solar PV Cell And Panel Manufacturing Facility In The United States

    Facility Expected To Have Minimum Production Capacity Of 3 GW With Possibility To Scale To 6 GW Annually

    Battery containers and wind turbines visible at Enel's Azure Sky wind and storage project now operating in Throckmorton County, Texas. (Image Courtesy Of Enel)

    Enel North America (Enel), through its affiliate 3Sun USA LLC (3Sun) announced its intention to build an industrial-scale production facility in the United States for the manufacturing of American-made photovoltaic (PV) modules. The proposed facility is expected to have a minimum production capacity of 3 GW with the possibility to scale production to 6 GW annually and is anticipated to create up to 1500 new direct jobs by 2025. The facility will be among the first in the United States to produce solar cells, the fundamental building block of PV modules. “Recent policy tailwinds from the Inflation Reduction Act have served as a catalyst for our solar manufacturing ambitions in the United States, ushering in a new era of made-in-America energy,” said Enrico Viale, head of Enel North America. “With this announcement, it is our intention to bolster a robust domestic solar supply chain that accelerates and strengthens the United States’ transition to clean energy.”

    Currently, Enel is evaluating possible sites for the new factory and expects to begin construction in mid-2023. It’s anticipated that the first panels will be available to the market by the end of 2024. Fewer than five large-scale solar module manufacturing facilities (over 1 GW) are currently operating in the United States, while annual US solar PV installations are projected to grow from 16 GW in 2022 to 41 GW by the end of 2025, according to Wood Mackenzie. Enel said it will leverage its expertise and experience from its 3Sun Gigafactory in Catania, Italy, which is set to become Europe’s largest factory producing high-performance bifacial PV modules. Enel intends to replicate the gigafactory factory in the United States to produce bifacial heterojunction (B-HJT) PV cells that capture more sunlight as the cells can respond to light on both front and rear surfaces.

    Enel’s 3Sun Gigafactory in Catania, Italy (Image Courtesy Of Enel)

    3Sun is already producing high-efficiency cells, breaking a record in 2020 by achieving 24.63% efficiency. Through its research and development program, the PV panels will be further developed to also incorporate a tandem structure. Enel said the tandem structure uses two stacked cells that allows for more light capture compared to single-cell structures, yielding higher overall cell efficiency. The combination of bifacial PV panels and tandem cell structure offers significant efficiency improvements, which will enable PV modules to exceed 30% efficiency, securing higher average energy production. The technology’s lower degradation ensures a longer useful life for modules, and the cells’ high density is conducive to a variety of applications, including land-constrained utility-scale installations or rooftops.