Enel, an Italian multinational energy company, is building a gigafactory in Sicily with the goal of producing significantly more efficient solar cells than existing models. The move is expected to increase competition from cheaper Chinese production. Nicola Lanzetta, head of Enel Italy, made these comments at the Cernobbio 2023 conference.
Lanzetta’s comments were backed up by a study supported by Enel, which found that Italy and the European Union (EU) could significantly reduce their dependence on key components from China in their energy transition. The solar cells produced at Enel’s Sicilian plant are predicted to reach 30% efficiency by 2025, compared to the current average solar energy conversion rate of around 20%.
Enel has invested around 600 million euros, including project financing from UniCredit announced in February, to increase the capacity of its power plant to 3 gigawatts (GW) by July 2024.
Currently, the power plant produces about 200 megawatts (MW) per year. The investment will make it the largest European manufacturer of high-performance solar cells in Europewhich produce energy from both surfaces.
The study presented by Lanzetta was prepared by The European House – Ambrosetti think tank and the Enel Foundation. The study highlighted that Europe currently depends on China for about 65% of its green technology components. This issue has increasingly come to the fore due to geopolitical tensions and supply disruptions caused by the pandemic.
According to the study, Italy and the EU could potentially increase domestic production by 2030 to meet more than half of the demand for photovoltaic panels, almost all of the demand for batteries and more than 60% of the demand for heat pumps. To achieve these goals, European companies must invest in innovative technologies, while making efficient use of the resources provided by governments and European institutions and increasing recycling capacity.
Lanzetta emphasized that decarbonization offers a unique opportunity to strengthen critical industrial sectors and reduce foreign dependence. He stated that this can be achieved if innovation is applied in a sustainable manner throughout the value chain. Lanzetta also confirmed that Enel is on track to reach 1,700 MW of battery capacity by the end of next year.
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