Enel, Sharp, ST to form largest solar panel plant in Italy

Geneva, Switzerland — Enel Green Power, Sharp and STMicroelectronics have signed an agreement to manufacture triple-junction thin-film photovoltaic (PV) panels in Catania, Italy, touted as the largest photovoltaic panel manufacturing plant in the country. This agreement follows the Memorandum of Understanding signed in May 2008 by Enel Green Power and Sharp, adding STMicroelectronics as a strategic partner.

This agreement is cited as the first time that three global technology and industrial powerhouses have joined together in an equal partnership in the solar industry. The new partnership will leverage Enel Green Power’s international market development and project management know-how, together with Sharp’s exclusive triple-junction thin-film technology, and STMicroelectronics’ manufacturing capacity and expertise in highly advanced, hi-tech sectors such as microelectronics.

The factory will be located in the existing M6 facility to be contributed by STMicroelectronics, and is expected to have an initial production capacity of 160 megawatts (MW) per year, which will be gradually increased to 480 MW per year. Manufacturing is expected to start at the beginning of 2011.

Aimed at the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, the 160-MW project will cost 320 million euros (about $461 million) and will be funded by a combination of equity, state grants and project financing. Each partner will invest one third of the equity — an expected contribution up to 70 million euros each, either in cash or in-kind – and will hold one third of the shares in the new joint venture company.

Enel Green Power and Sharp also signed an agreement to jointly develop solar farms, with a goal to install cumulative capacity of 500 MW by the end of 2016, making use of the photovoltaic panels manufactured at the Catania factory.

Sharp’s triple-junction thin-film photovoltaic panels are said to be particularly suitable for medium and large-scale photovoltaic power generation. Compared to ordinary silicon solar panels, the triple-junction thin-film photovoltaic modules are able to maintain a very high level of energy conversion efficiency even in very hot climates. Thanks to their lower silicon content, these modules are also less exposed to raw silicon price volatility, according to the companies.

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