EGP’s 3Sun plant in Catania will be expanded 15 times to produce 3 GW of bifacial heterojunction photovoltaic modules. The tandem structure, which increases efficiency to more than 30%, will also be tested.
Europe’s first gigawatt-scale high-performance double-sided photovoltaic plant will be located in Italy.
It will be in Catania thanks to the expansion of the current 3Sun factory of Enel Green Power. It currently has a production capacity of 200MW, in two and a half years it will be 15 times higher to reach 3GW per year in July 2024.
The European Commission has already given the green light to co-finance the largest double-sided photovoltaic gigafactory on the old continent.
The investment will be 600 million euros, of which 118 million will come from Brussels within the framework of the TANGO project (iTaliAN PV Giga plant).
This plant was selected by the European Commission as one of the seven most promising initiatives in the first round of the Innovation Fund, beating 311 other proposals from various European countries.
Gigafactory double-sided solar panels.
Large-scale production of bifacial heterojunction (B-HJT) photovoltaic cells, which guarantee superior performance and operation, will start in Catania (Italy).
Combining two types of silicon, amorphous and crystalline, the basic solar cell will have an efficiency greater than 20.5% and a useful life of more than 35 years.
When the new bifacial photovoltaic line was inaugurated in 2019, it was the first plant in the world to produce this technology on an industrial scale. The expansion to 3GW will continue with its records.
The project plans to integrate a structure into the panels, called “Tandem”, which improves overall efficiency. It uses two superimposed cells which capture more light than the traditional version. EGP estimates that the modules can reach more than 30%.
Together, the annual production of bifacial panels will generate approximately 5.5 TWh of solar electricity, which will avoid the emission of nearly 25 MtCO2 into the atmosphere during the first 10 years of operation.
Even if the increase in production will not be immediate, since the first 400 new MW will arrive in mid-2023, the Italian giga-factory will contribute in the medium term to reducing energy dependence on Russia by avoiding having to buy 1.2 billion m3 of gas the year it will be fully operational. The average Russian gas import from Italy today is around 29,000 million m3.
There is also the merit of bringing photovoltaic production back to Europe, which European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson pointed to as a priority at the end of March.
The global demand for solar PV modules is growing at a rapid rate.
The origin of supplies of these important components is a weak link in the global supply chain and we see the need to rebalance their geographical distribution, which is currently too dependent on a single source in Asia.
This investment will return 3,000 MW of production capacity to Europe per year and will be a major step forward for Italy to maintain its technological leadership.
Francesco Starace, CEO of Enel.