The creation of this gigantic "national production line" is "a strategic move for Italy and Europe", said Enel CEO Francesco Starace on Monday during a visit to the site.
By mid-2024, the 3Sun plant should see its annual production capacity increase to 3 gigawatts, against 200 megawatts currently, which will make it "the largest solar panel factory in Europe", according to Enel.
The Italian group will then overtake the photovoltaic panel factory of the Swiss group Meyer Burger located in Freiberg, in eastern Germany, with an annual capacity of 400 megawatts which will eventually have to be increased to 1 gigawatt. .
The investment in this "gigafactory" amounts to 600 million euros, including 188 million euros coming from Brussels via the Innovation Fund and from Rome via the post-Covid European recovery plan.
"This investment has a strong political significance, which is that of freeing our country from foreign dependence, especially from China", including in renewable energies, commented in Catania Gilberto Pichetto Fratin, Italian Minister for the Environment.
China is the world's largest producer of solar panels and exports a large part of them to Europe.
The project in Catania, which should be followed by another in the United States, should create 900 direct and 1.000 indirect jobs by 2024, Enel said in a press release.
Expansion work began in April 2022 and is expected to be completed in two phases, with 400 megawatts operational from September 2023, ahead of full capacity of 3 gigawatts scheduled for July 2024.
This increase in the production capacity of solar panels should make it possible to avoid the release of nearly 25 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere during their first ten years of operation, according to calculations by Enel.
Likewise, this extension of the plant should avoid the purchase of nearly 1,2 billion m3 of gas per year, replaced by renewable energy produced in the country, thus helping to reduce Italy's dependence of Russia in this area.
Enel was one of the first energy giants to embrace sustainable development. Renewable energies now represent 48% of its total production, compared to 40% of thermal origin and 12% of nuclear origin.
Its subsidiary Enel Green Power has increased its global renewable energy capacity to 59 gigawatts in 2022, increasing it by 5,2 gigawatts.