Enel, Sharp, ST tie up for triple-junction PV plant

Italy’s largest power company is pooling resources with Sharp and STMicroelectronics to help build the country’s largest PV panel plant, what will ultimately be a €320M, 480MW/year triple-junction thin-film operation.

January 6, 2009 –  Italy’s largest power company is pooling resources with Sharp and STMicroelectronics to help build the country’s largest PV panel plant, what will ultimately be a €320M, 480MW/year triple-junction thin-film operation in Catania within ST’s M6 facility.

The equal three-way partnership — billed as a first for global technology and industrial firms of their stature — will initially start in early 2011 with initial capacity of 160MW/year, gradually tripling capacity over several years. Output of the site will targeted the “EMEA” region (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and the Mediterranean in particular, where Enel and Sharp have sales networks and plans for 500MW worth of solar farms by 2016. Enel retail installation arm Enel.si will offer the panels directly and through a 500-strong Italian franchisee network. Investments will be funded by a combination of equity, state grants, and project financing; each will contribute €70M in cash or in-kind.

ST’s M6 site in Catania offers “an ideal location” due to its colocation with ST’s semiconductor and related facilities, and silicon-savvy manufacturing workforce; Enel also has a research center in Catania with a solar focus, and Sicily is a key region for solar farm activity with logistics advantages to penetrate nearby markets.

The triple-junction thin-film technology provided by Sharp was chosen due to its better performance in hot climates, and less exposure to silicon pricing volatility, the companies explained. Sharp’s own 480MW triple-junction line in Sakai, Japan, is planned to ramp up this spring.

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