- Enel Group’s 3Sun Gigafactory has secured a loan amount of €560 million from UniCredit
- It is backed by Italian export credit agency SACE to help the company expand its annual production capacity to 3 GW
- The company is reportedly in talks with potential partners to take stake in 3Sun, with NextEnergy Capital likely to be a potential candidate
Enel Green Power’s (EGP) 3Sun solar module factory company has raised an Italian export credit agency SACE backed loan of €560 million from UniCredit to help expand Europe’s largest solar panel factory in Italy’s Catania to 3 GW level, up from 200 MW at present.
“The solar module factory we are building in Catania will be at the forefront in terms of innovative technology and automation of industrial processes and will contribute to the EU’s goal of achieving 40% energy consumption from renewable sources by 2030, as well as help reduce energy dependence,” said CEO and General Manager of Enel Francesco Starace.
He added, “With this project we are demonstrating the feasibility and scalability, including financially, of a sustainable industrial model that can be replicated for other factories of this type to be developed in the coming years in other countries as well.”
3Sun’s iTaliAN pv Giga factory (TANGO) project is expanding the annual production capacity of the fab 15-fold to 3 GW annually, starting with the initial 400 MW in September 2023 and bringing the entire capacity online by July 2024 (see Enel Green Power Unveils Heterojunction Solar Module).
Once fully operational, the 3 GW capacity will be enough to annually generate up to about 5.5 TWh of renewable electricity annually leading to avoiding the purchase of almost 1.2 billion cubic meters of gas per year, according to the company.
The pan-European commercial bank UniCredit has coordinated the loan that’s divided as a €475 million senior term loan and €85 million value added tax (VAT) loan. It is partially counter-guaranteed by SACE through the Green Guarantee that targets efforts made for climate mitigation under the country’s Green New Deal.
SACE sees the Gigafactory as a strategic initiative that will contribute to reducing the country’s energy dependence while developing domestic production capabilities and employment opportunities.
The 3Sun project is also backed by a €118 million grant from the European Commission (see Europe PV News Snippets). The company recently placed an order for European PV manufacturing equipment from Switzerland’s Indeotec for PECVD and PVD cluster tool for 3Sun’s new R&D lab (see Swiss Solar Cell Equipment For Enel’s Catania Lab).
Enel established the 3Sun fab in August 2010 with 160 MW annual capacity under a joint venture with Japan’s Sharp Corporation and Italian-French semiconductor manufacturer STMicroelectronics, finally taking over entire stake in the factory in 2015.
It was designed to produce thin-film panels initially, but in August 2018 it started rolling out HJT bifacial panels and is set for a milestone with a 3 GW annual capacity by next year, setting in motion Europe’s move to reshore its solar PV supply chain.
According to a news report by Reuters in early February, Enel is in exclusive talks to sell a stake in 3Sun with its sources pointing out British solar energy company NextEnergy Capital as one of the possible contenders. The speculation was fueled by NextEnergy Capital’s Managing Partner and Chief Investment Officer Aldo Beolchini writing this on LinkedIn, “In Catania today, NextEnergy Capital is proud to support Enel Green Power in the reshoring of PV supply chain.”