A report by the International Energy Agency's Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme underlines the importance of global market competitiveness for the solar PV supply chain. For Italy, the Agency mentions the successful case of 3SUN, which manufactures the thin-film modules that Enel Green Power is installing in Latin America and South Africa.
“The production capacity of Italian modules has remained stable compared to 2013, thanks to the full operativity of the Sicily-based company 3Sun, a subsidiary of Enel Green Power. The road towards internationalization is a necessity for the Italian photovoltaic industry.” These are statements contained in the International Energy Agency’s Photovoltaic Power Systems (PVPS-IEA) latest annual report.
Solar PV continues to grow, the AIE report points out, and in 2014 it supplied more than 1% of the world’s electricity. This figure might superficially appear very low, but in fact it exceeds the Agency’s forecasts as well as those of associations like Greenpeace. The sector is driven by China, Japan and the United States, with a total of more than 26GW of new installed capacity in 2014. But new markets, hitherto not included in the solar ‘global race,’ are also growing: in fact, nine countries exceeded 1GW of installed capacity last year.
The development of the technological supply chain follows that of markets, and also in this case the leading country module and component manufacture ranking sees China and the USA in first place. From the first years of the solar boom, which saw the development of domestic supply chains competitive in single countries and macro-regions, one has now gone on to a market of global players. And as underlined by the PVPS-IEA, operating on an international scale has become essential for all companies included in the locally born supply chains. The case of 3SUN in Catania, an Enel Green Power thin-film module manufacture, is mentioned in the Agency’s report for the contribution that it has made to the production capacity of Italian companies in this sector, where a sizeable role is also played by inverter manufacturers. The company, which operates in Sicily, a region by definition known as the Italian solar district, has meant that the Italian domestic module manufacturing sector has not excessively suffered from decreased installations in Italy. after years in which solar power had flourished, also thanks to incentivising schemes.
Italian solar panels produced in Sicily are already up and operating far beyond Italy’s borders. The more than 200,000 thin-film modules installed by Enel Green Power at the Diego di Almagro solar field in Chile were built by 3SUN. And the manufacturer on the Catania plain also produced the modules installed in South Africa in EGP’s solar plant, now already operating, at Upington. Same for those destined for the solar fields that are currently under construction at Aurora, Tom Burke, Paleisheweul and Pulida.