‘The solar energy revolution begins in Catania“. This has been repeated in recent weeks in the Italian media. The reason for this optimism is none other than the kick-off that the energy operator ENEL has just given so that its plant in this region of Sicily, 3SUN, becomes 3SUN 2.0. When that happens, it will be the first factory in the world to exclusively produce HJT bifacial panels.
The expected progress with the production of this technology combining amorphous and crystalline silicon, it is not small. So when the plant is ready, which is slated for the end of 2019, the panels coming out of it are expected to be up to 20% efficient. The percentage will thus double that of the first modules to be produced at 3SUN 2.0 where, throughout the second quarter of this year, a new assembly line will be launched to exclusively fashion bifacial modules based on crystal cells.
To this, precisely, the first phase of this ambitious project, in which it is planned to reach a production capacity of 80 MW per year. From there will begin, at the turn of the year, a new stage marked by the installation of another line, then for the assembly of the HJT. Although manufacturing of these panels begins at this point, the truth is that the peak moment will come in the third quarter of 2019, with the third and final phase of the project. Until then, the idea is to produce more and better. In addition, out of these initial 80 MW, it should even reach 250 MW per year. Better, because of the jump in efficiency of HJT panels, but for more reasons.
Going from 360 W of maximum capacity per panel to 395 W is also at the center of ENEL’s concerns, which highlights other advantages of this new technology. With an estimated useful life of three decades, the panels to be produced in Catania also have among their strengths their high performance in extreme weather conditions, as well as their ability to capture solar radiation even with the back of the panels. This virtue, they say, increases energy production above 10% and allows installations with fewer panels.
With this in mind, the plant will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, that is, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And it is that the effort to make this possible will not be small. The conversion of 3SUN will require the biggest investment ever in Europe for the manufacture of photovoltaic panels. 80 million euros have been put on the table. But not only does ENEL see in HJT bifacial panels the potential to impact the solar energy industry. The vision seems to be shared by the European Union itself, which is co-funding this project under the Horizon 2020 program. “We hope that this operation will be the necessary stimulus for the entire production sector in Italy and for the photovoltaic sector in general”, says the executive director of ENEL Green Power, Antonio Cammisecra, about a project that can increase the level of solar energy production in the world.