Enel mulls building heterojunction solar module factory in the US


In a press briefing held on Tuesday, new CEO of Enel Green Power (EGP), Salvatore Bernabei, discussed the developments EGP is undertaking in its renewable energy business and revealed its current strategy for its solar module manufacturing business.

“The capacity of our factory in Catania is currently only 200MW per year and, in order to achieve the best possible price, we need to increase the scale,” he told pv magazine, referring to the funding that the company recently received from the European Commission to scale up the manufacturing facility. “We are planning to start the works for the enlargement of the factory soon. We will add a new building close to the existing one.”

The factory is expected to begin manufacturing activities by the end of 2023 and to reach full capacity by mid-2024.

“Taking into that 3GW is a relatively small size compared to the huge development of PV in the world, we may consider building another factory with a ‘copy and paste' approach out of Italy, like for instance in the United States,” Bernabei said. “Once we will have the first factory working, I think it will be a good idea to replicate this facility in other geographies.”

Enel Green Power's  CEO, Salvatore Bernabei

Image: Enel

The CEO also revealed that EGP is currently developing its next-generation solar module technology based on tandem cells relying on perovskites. “In five years from now, we will see this technology achieve efficiencies over 30%, which means 50% more compared to the current efficiencies,” he said. “The funds awarded by the EU will not be used only to scale up the factory in southern Italy, but also for further developing our heterojunction technology and the tandem modules. Our competitive advantage here is the technical know-how for these two technologies.”

Bernabei further explained that EGP is betting on other innovations for its solar modules. “We will also work to launch a new technology to replace glass with cheaper plastic,” he stated. “It will enable us to produce lighter panels that will be easier to install.”

EGP deployed around 2.24GW of new solar capacity in 2021, according to data released during the press briefing, and this year it is expected to add another 6.1GW of renewable energy capacity. In the 2022-2024 period, the company should install 21.2GW. “The proportion should be 60% of solar and 40% of wind power,” Bernabei said.

In 2021, EGP deployed 220MW of battery capacity for the first time. “The growth in the pipeline of projects under development was also notable, reaching approximately 370GW, which includes renewables, Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) and capacity already in execution,” the company said in a statement.

*The headline of the article was amended to reflect that no specific capacity was indicated by the company for the factory in the United States.

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