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Largest solar PV factory in Italy opens; targets Mediterranean

The largest solar photovoltaic factory in Italy opened its doors on Friday, bolstering the country's leading global position in renewable energy.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

The largest solar photovoltaic factory in Italy opened its doors on Friday, bolstering the country's leading global position in renewable energy.

The facility -- which is run by3Sun, a joint venture between renewables specialist Enel Green Power, tech giant Sharp and power management service provider STMicroelectronics -- is located in Catania, a town of 300,000 on the eastern shores of Sicily.

Its primary use will be for the manufacture of integrated multi-junction, thin-film photovoltaic cells and modules. Its annual capacity will start at 160 megawatts with plans to ramp up to 480 megawatts in the future.

Italy, of course, has long served as No. 2 to Germany's continent-leading investment in renewable energy. (In fact, these two nations lead the world in solar investment.)

But as the global economy fails to find a spark three years after a major recession, the question is whether Italy, like Germany, will drastically reduce investment to more austere levels.

On the other hand, Italy is seen as a stable, mature solar market and its overall solar investment may see less of a drop than expected as investors take up bets in shakier regions to double down on proven markets.

To that point, Italian officials are still courting investment in existing solar plants as new construction opportunities dry up. Moreover, incentives for small rooftop projects continue unabated.

The Catania project received financing via three banks -- Banca IMI, Centrobanca and Unicredit -- as well as a mix of capital from its partners and almost $70 million in funding from CIPE, the Italian Interministerial Committee for Economic Planning. The agreement was finalized in August 2010.

The factory intends to meet the demand in several regional solar power markets: Europe, the Middle East and Africa, via the sales networks brought to the table by Enel and Sharp.

Photo: Francesco Pappalardo/Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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