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Clean Power

Enel Announces PV Cell & Solar Panel Factory In The US

Enel North America says it will build a solar panel and component factory in the United States with a capacity of 6 GW by 2025.

Companies are rushing to begin manufacturing photovoltaic cells and solar panels in America as a result of the incentives made available by Congress and the Biden administration. Recently, we reported on First Solar’s announcement that it will build a new $1 billion solar panel factory in Alabama. Today, Enel, Italy’s largest utility company, said it also plans to construct a factory in the US to manufacture PV cells and solar panels.

“Recent policy tailwinds from the Inflation Reduction Act have served as a catalyst for our solar manufacturing ambitions in the US, 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 US’s transition to clean energy. In doing so, we are creating thousands of new jobs, supporting local economies and providing stability to the solar industry.”

Reuters reports the new factory is expected to produce at least 3 GW initially and scale up to 6 GW of high performance bifacial PV modules and cells a year. The construction of the factory is expected to begin in the first half of 2023 and the first panel will be available to the market by the end of 2024. Enel has not announced where the factory will be located, but did say it expects it will employ 1,500 workers when it reaches full capacity in 2025.

The US project follows a similar initiative Enel is developing in southern Italy, where it is scaling up an existing solar PV panel plant to become a gigafactory producing up to 3 GW of solar panels annually. “Enel intends to replicate the gigafactory factory in the U.S. to produce bifacial heterojunction PV cells that capture more sunlight,” the company says.

Annual US solar panel installations are projected to grow from 16 GW in 2022 to 41 GW by the end of 2025, according to Wood Mackenzie, yet there are less than 5 large scale solar module manufacturing facilities currently operating in the US.

Enel says 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 photovoltaic modules. Enel intends to replicate the Gigafactory factory in the US 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.

3Sun is already a market leader in producing high efficiency cells, breaking a record in 2020 by achieving 24.63% efficiency. Through an ambitious R&D program, the PV panels will be further developed to also incorporate a tandem structure, which utilizes two stacked cells that allows for more light to be captured compared to single-cell structures, leading to even higher overall cell efficiency.

The combination of bifacial PV panels and tandem cell structure will make it possible for PV modules to exceed 30% efficiency, the company says. This technology has lower degradation, which ensures a longer useful life for modules. The high density of the cells makes them ideal for a variety of applications, including utility scale installations where available land is at a premium or for rooftop solar systems.

For those who say politics has no place in the exalted pages of CleanTechnica, stories like this make it clear that without political will, all the good wishes for renewable energy in the world will not be enough to alter the path we are on to a full fledged climate catastrophe.

The Biden administration has set the table. Now the benefits of its policies are about to begin flowing to all parts of America, helping the US to be energy independent while meeting its obligation to the rest of the world to lower carbon emissions significantly. The announcement by Enel proves those policies are having the desired effect.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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