A new solar age in Catania

Published on Tuesday, 20 March 2018

“We are obliged to innovate, to reinvent our work every day, because that’s the only way we can remain competitive. It is a wonderful obligation as it keeps us passionate and full of energy.” The words of Antonio Cammisecra rang out around the 3SUN facility, transformed for the occasion into a splendid white auditorium. The CEO of Enel Green Power addressed the three hundred young employees (average age under 37), while to his right stood the new assembly line for the manufacture of the world’s most advanced photovoltaic panel. “Ambitious? Yes, we are. We want to shape the photovoltaic industry, we want to lead its innovation and perfect a technology that will become the world standard.” 

The event in Sicily’s Silicon Valley has certainly made its mark. The technological reconversion programme called 3SUN 2.0 was given its official launch on Friday 16 March 2018. The Catanian company is Europe’s largest producer of photovoltaic systems, and Enel Green Power is the sole shareholder. Production of the HJT module – a double-sided heterojunction panel with improved performance compared to previous designs in terms of power, efficiency, energy production and lifetime – is set to begin in 2019. 

“The two sides, which capture the sun’s energy and transform it into electrical energy, front and back, and the efficiency that makes us extremely competitive,” are, according to Antonello Irace, Head of 3Sun, the most important features of the production project.

A closer look reveals that the 3SUN 2.0 project unfolds in three stages – the first, starting in the second quarter of 2018, involves a new assembly line for the crystalline cells, enabling the manufacture of double-sided panels. Maximum production capacity will be 80 MW/year. For the other stages, “We’ll need another year, but in early 2019 we’ll be in a position to produce a module that is not yet available on the market,” says Cammisecra. “Efficiency will increase from the 10% offered by the previous model to 18% for the 2018 double-sided panel and around 20% for the HJT double-sided panels from 2019 onwards.”

The ambitious investment programme will exceed 100 million euros (80 to 3SUN and 20 to the nearby Enel Innovation Lab in Passo Martino, financed by Enel, the European Union, the Ministry of Economic Development and the Sicilian regional administration). The objective is to provide a boost to the technological hub in Catania. Enel Green Power is a global centre of excellence with solid Italian roots, and in an increasingly competitive renewable energy market this relationship with the local region has provided a winning edge.

Enel Chairman Patrizia Grieco once again emphasised the importance of the Innovation Lab, describing it as “A technological campus where we research innovative technology in the field of renewables but it is also an accelerator for young enterprises, which will stimulate research in the energy sector. The new hybrid heterojunction cells under production at 3SUN were basically conceived, designed and tested at the Passo Martino labs.”

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