Enel Green Power, Sharp and STMicroelectronics Join Forces to Produce Thin-film Photovoltaic Panels

January 03, 2010 by Jeff Shepard

Enel Green Power, Sharp and STMicroelectronics signed an agreement for the manufacture of triple-junction thin-film photovoltaic panels in Italy. At the same time, Enel Green Power and Sharp signed a further agreement to jointly develop solar farms.

The agreement regarding the photovoltaic panel factory follows the Memorandum of Understanding signed in May 2008 by Enel Green Power and Sharp. STMicroelectronics has joined this strategic partnership.

This agreement marks the first time that three global technology and industrial powerhouses have joined together in an equal partnership to contribute their unique value-add to the solar industry. It brings together Enel Green Power, with its international market development and project management know-how; Sharp, and its exclusive triple-junction thin-film technology, which will be operational in the mother plant in Sakai, Japan as of spring 2010; and STMicroelectronics, with its manufacturing capacity, skills and resources in highly advanced, hi-tech sectors such as microelectronics.

The factory, located in Catania in the existing M6 facility to be contributed by STMicroelectronics, is expected to have an initial production capacity of 160 MW per year. The plant’s capacity is targeted to be gradually increased to 480 MW per year over the next years and right from its start will represent the single most important production facility for solar panels in Italy. Photovoltaic panel manufacturing at the Catania plant is expected to start at the beginning of 2011.

The project of 160 MW will require a total investment of 320 Million euros and will be funded by a combination of equity, state grants and project financing with no recourse to the Joint Venture’s shareholders beyond their quota in the Joint Venture. Each partner will subscribe 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.

The factory output will be used to serve the most attractive solar markets in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region with a particular focus on the Mediterranean area. In this region, Enel Green Power and Sharp already have important sales networks and also plan to jointly develop solar farms., the Enel Green Power company specializing in the installation of photovoltaic systems in the retail market, will also participate in the marketing effort, offering panels directly and through its franchisee network of over 500 qualified installers in Italy.

Enel Green Power and Sharp have signed an additional agreement aimed at the creation of an equal joint venture to develop solar farms. The goal is to install cumulative capacity at a level of 500 MW by the end of 2016, making use of the photovoltaic panels manufactured at the Catania factory. The effectiveness of the agreements signed by the parties is conditional upon the clearance released by the relevant authorities concerned.

Triple-junction thin-film photovoltaic panels are 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.