“What we would like to achieve with 3SUN is keeping open a window of opportunity on technology as the work carried out on these solar panels is a testimony to our drive for continuous improvement, in terms of performance and productivity, enabling electricity generation from solar power at increasingly lower cost.”
Reconversion technology and automatization enable the 3SUN facility to operate continuously, 24 hours a day 365 days a year, to produce roughly 1,400 solar panels per day and around 500 thousand annually.
“Launching this new production line is an important milestone that Enel Green Power has long awaited. We believed and invested in this highly innovative project, which shines the international spotlight on Italian industrial excellence. This is especially meaningful in a sector as competitive as solar power. We will continue our commitment to researching and developing this technology to further improve performance, sustainability and competitive edge. We will do so knowing full well that we are the world’s technology leader in the photovoltaic sector.”
A history of excellence
The 3SUN “Sun Factory” was founded in 2011, when Enel Green Power joined the company’s consortium.
By the end of 2011, the company had begun producing “thin film” modules, which were based on multi-junction thin film silicon.
In a little over 2 years, 3 million panels had been produced. That number grew to 5 million at the end of 2015, only a few months after Enel Green Power took over 3SUN.
The last thin film panel was made on October 25th 2017.
From that point on, work focused on producing HJT double-faced panels. On August 2nd 2018, the first double-faced panel certified by TUV was made, while the first actual HJT cell was produced in February 2019.
“We are the world’s leading industrial-scale producers of solar panels based on the innovative double-faced and heterojunction HJT technology. We hope to create momentum in the sector and by promoting innovative solar panel technology, we want to transform solar power into a pragmatic clean energy solution wherever the sun shines.”
This new step will enable Catania’s facility to reach a rated production capacity of 200 MW. 3SUN will continue to employ over 300 highly specialized staff and guarantee work for a downstream network of over 600 people. This achievement is not only symbolic for Sicily and for Enel Group, but for southern Italy, as is at the center of the Group’s hiring and investment plans.
Today, 3SUN is Enel’s center of Sicilian technology. Its adjacent “Innovation Lab” has a campus devoted to innovation and a business accelerator for young entrepreneurs, designed to generate research in the energy and renewable energy sectors.
Enel Group has already invested 20 million euros in the Innovation Lab, which hosts local and national startups, international research centers and is connected to other Enel Innovation Hubs across the world.
Enel’s Sicilian technology pole is a center of international excellence that attracts young talent and helps them build our future. This hi-tech hub in southern Italy creates a virtuous circle with the supply chain, positively contributing to the area’s socioeconomics. As well, it strongly boosts Italy’s position in a sector that is key for European entrepreneurship development.
Discovering HJT technology
HJT (Hetero Junction Technology) solar panels are the apple of 3SUN’s eye and they are the only facility in the world to produce this new technology based on heterojunction. The junction of two different types of silicon, amorphous and crystalline results in particularly high performance.
The structure is made up of glass/glass with transparent encapsulation and 72 high-efficiency cells. The peak power of the 2019 HJT modules is 385W. Those produced in 2020 will reach 410 W.
The double-faced structure is optimized to capture light on both sides, thereby fostering increased production of electricity (up to 33% more).
Thanks to more refined production processes, an HJT panel will last more than 35 years (compared to traditional models’ 25) and is 20% more efficient.
Now, the challenge the facility has set itself is to pass the theoretical limitations of silicon use and reach more than 28% efficiency in the next three years with the help of constant technological innovation and research on new materials.
In Sicily, Enel’s goal is to foster technological excellence in the renewable energy and disruptive technology fields and to transform the technology center in Catania into an international center of prestige for the industrial solar power sector.