Enel in exclusive talks to sell stake in solar gigafactory

Europe's biggest utility Enel is scaling up a solar panel gigafactory it owns in Sicily to make it Europe's largest maker of bifacial photovoltaic (PV) modules and ward off the risk of dependency on China
A prototype of a bifacial photovoltaic module is seen inside Italian utility Enel's solar panel gigafactory in Catania, Italy, November 28, 2022. REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello

CATANIA, Italy, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Italian energy group Enel (ENEI.MI) has entered exclusive talks to sell a stake in 3Sun, its photovoltaic panel production site in Sicily, Chief Executive Francesco Starace said on Monday.

According to two sources close to the matter, British solar energy specialist NextEnergy Capital is in pole position to buy a minority stake in Enel's 3Sun giant solar panels factory.

"We will make an announcement in the coming days," Starace said on the sidelines of an event at the facility in the eastern Sicilian city of Catania.

In a post on LinkedIn, NextEnergy Capital Chief Investment Officer Aldo Beolchini said: "In Catania today, NextEnergy Capital is proud to support Enel Green Power in the reshoring of (the) photovoltaic supply chain."

The British group was not available to comment on the issue.

The plant's current production capacity of around 200 megawatts (MW) per year will rise to 3 gigawatts (GW) by July 2024, making it the biggest factory in Europe, Enel said.

The total investment for the factory is estimated at 600 million euros ($646.20 million), of which around 190 million will be granted by the European Union.

The project to build new generation panels in Sicily is part of the EU effort to speed up the switch to renewables, ending dependence on Russian gas and helping reduce the reliance on Chinese solar materials.

"Renewable energy growth estimates for the next few years make a clear case for investing in the creation of a domestic production chain, which represents a strategic move for Italy and Europe," Starace said.

The EU as a whole aims to reach almost 600 GW of solar energy by 2030, and the number of installations is increasing.

Industry group SolarPower Europe estimated in December that panels generating at least 40 GW had been installed in 2022 and growth would exceed 270 GW by 2025.

In November, Enel announced it would build a solar photovoltaic (PV) cell and panel manufacturing facility in the United States in an effort to support the creation of a North American supply chain.

($1 = 0.9285 euros)

Writing by Angelo Amante; Editing by Jan Harvey

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