Image courtesy of Enel

Enel Chooses Oklahoma For $1 Billion Solar Panel Factory

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3Sun USA, a subsidiary of Enel North America, has announced it had chosen Inola, Oklahoma, as the location for a new $1 billion manufacturing facility for innovative, sustainable, and American-made photovoltaic cells and modules. The 2 million square foot factory will have a capacity of 3 GW of solar panels a year.

Enel North America is a clean energy leader in North America and is working to electrify the economy and build a zero carbon future by decarbonizing energy supply, electrifying transportation, creating resilient grids, and promoting a just, equitable transition. Its portfolio includes over 9.7 GW of utility-scale renewable capacity, 606 MW/910 MWh of utility-scale energy storage and 76 MW/174 MWh of distributed energy storage capacity, 4.7 GW of demand response capacity, and 170,000 electric vehicle charging ports. It has plans to install 2 million EV chargers by 2030.

The Enel factory will employ 1,800 workers during the construction phase and more than 1000 full time workers after the factory opens late in 2024. The first panels are expected to be delivered to customers by the end of next year. The project includes the potential for a second phase that would scale the factory to reach 6 GW of annual production, creating an additional 900 new direct jobs.

“We are proud to help usher in a new era of American-made energy and do so with a state that is already a leader in the energy industry. Our selection of Oklahoma is a testament to the strength of the Tulsa Port of Inola site, the state’s commitment to workforce development, and an attractive investment climate,” said Giovanni Bertolino, head of 3Sun USA. “With this announcement, we are taking a major step forward in developing a state-of-the-art PV factory, bringing hundreds of jobs and millions in long-term tax revenue, while moving Oklahoma to the forefront of renewables manufacturing.”

The planned factory will be among the first in the United States to produce solar cells, the fundamental building block of PV modules, and will incorporate high performance bifacial heterojunction technology.

“When I took office, I promised to bring Oklahoma to the world, and the world to Oklahoma; and today’s historic announcement is a testament to that mission, our business-friendly environment and more of everything energy approach,” said Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt. “Enel’s expansion is a huge win for Oklahoma, and I’m thrilled by their record investment in our state’s economy and workforce, that will have a lasting legacy and continue to impact Oklahomans for generations.”

Enel has been present in Oklahoma for over a decade, during which time it has invested $3 billion to expand its footprint in the state, which now includes 13 wind farms and a regional office in Oklahoma City to support its growing workforce.

“We know that the clean energy industry is really booming globally, and we want America to be a leader in that effort. We want Oklahoma to be able to participate and be a leader in those efforts as well,” said Rachel Thomas, Senior Communications Advisor at the White House. “Today is just the latest example of how President Biden’s investing and America agenda is working. And it’s revitalizing American manufacturing across the country. It’s building a clean energy economy and inspiring every community along to participate and benefit from these investments.”

Thomas emphasized that the investment by Enel is the direct result of the tax credits and incentives contained in the Inflation Reduction Act and other clean energy policies promoted by the Biden administration. Once again, those tax credits and incentives are bringing real jobs and investment to parts of America that oppose all those tax credits and incentives. Not one representative or senator from Oklahoma voted for them, but they are quick to accept a handout from Uncle Sugar if there is one available. Can you say “hypocrite,” boys and girls? Yeah, we knew you could.

Oklahoma does have its own state incentives for new clean manufacturing facilities, which will provide 3Sun and Enel with up to $180 million in long term financial rewards.

About Enel & 3Sun HJT Technology

3Sun will begin producing its high efficiency hetero-junction solar modules in Italy this September. The double-sided HJT can secure higher than average energy production, producing approximately 15-20% more electricity than conventional single-sided panels. It also offers significant efficiency improvements, with a certified cell efficiency of 24.6%. 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 and rooftop solar systems.

In the near future, 3Sun will introduce its next generation tandem cell technology, which achieved a record-breaking certified efficiency of 26.5% this month. The tandem technology utilizes two stacked cells that allows for more light to be captured, when compared to single-cell structures.

Enel Praised By Oklahoma Officials

“A project of this scale — bringing over a billion dollars of investment and millions in economic impact to our state — proves pro-business policies we have enacted in recent years are working. We have all the right conditions to continue to get projects of this magnitude, and we must continue to press even harder to make Oklahoma the most business friendly, and family friendly, state in the nation,” said Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall.

Last year, Oklahoma passed what at the time was the most restrictive reproductive rights legislation in America, which apparently is what Speaker McCall was referring to when he touted the state’s family friendly policies.

The new factory will provide employment opportunities for members of the Cherokee Nation, whose ancestors were escorted to Oklahoma courtesy of the US Army. “We are proud to collaborate with our regional partners and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce for a business expansion effort that will bring long-term quality jobs to the Cherokee Nation Reservation. Cherokee Nation has consistently been at the local forefront of the movement towards a cleaner, more sustainable future,” said Cherokee Nation principal chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.

“With Enel North America establishing a production facility in Rogers County, we are seeing a positive step forward in advancing alternative energy efforts and promoting green energy manufacturing in a Cherokee community. The talented workforce required for this kind of expansion will largely be Cherokee and it will have a tremendous economic impact for local families” The new factory was also welcomed by David Hill, principal chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

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The Takeaway

There are several bits of good news here. First, more US-based solar panel manufacturing is welcome. Second, the photovoltaic cells in those panels will also be made in America. That’s a plus, even though the Treasury department has determined that panels made with cells manufactured in China can still qualify for US tax credits and incentives. More US-made solar cells are the big news in this announcement.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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