Enel Green Power signs EU grant deal for solar gigafactory in Italy

A video screen displays the new logo of Italy's biggest utility Enel in its flagship store in downtown Milan, Italy, May 4, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

ROME, April 1 (Reuters) - Italy's biggest utility Enel (ENEI.MI) has signed a grant deal with the European Commission to scale up a solar panel gigafactory it owns in Sicily and make it Europe's largest maker of bifacial photovoltaic modules, which produce power from both sides of the panel.

The development of the 3Sun panel factory, dubbed TANGO, is expected to raise production at the site fifteen-fold to three gigawatts from the current 200 megawatts, Enel's renewable arm Enel Green Power said.

It will be fully commissioned by July 2024.

Total investment at the site will amount to around 600 million euros ($663 million), of which 118 million will come from the EU Innovation fund. The project is expected to create around 1,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2024.

Enel, the world's biggest listed renewable energy company, is looking to scale up its manufacturing capacity to meet growing demand for solar panels and cut Europe's dependence on Asian suppliers.

On Thursday the European Commission said it would do "whatever it takes" to rebuild Europe's solar manufacturing industry as it looks to accelerate the green energy roll out as part of plans to cut reliance on Russian gas. read more

The EU is looking to source 40% of its energy consumption from renewable sources by 2030.

"The sourcing footprint of these important components is a weak point in the global supply chain ... that is today excessively dependent on a single Asian source," Enel Chief Executive Francesco Starace said.

"This investment will place 3,000 MW per year of production capacity back in Europe," he said.

The 3 GW of panels to be manufactured every year by the gigafactory can generate up to around 5.5 TWh of renewable electricity per year.

($1 = 0.9045 euros)

Reporting by Stephen Jewkes and Giulia Segreti, editing by David Evans

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