2 August 2010


Sharp, Enel and ST form 3Sun for thin-film PV production in Italy

A week after authorization of a €49m subsidy by the Italian government’s CIPE (Inter-ministerial Committee for Economic Planning), Japan’s Sharp Corp, Rome-based Enel Green Power (EGP, a company of Italy’s largest power firm Enel Group) and Europe-based semiconductor manufacturer STMicroelectronics (ST) have formed the equal-share joint venture 3Sun S.r.l. for the integrated production of thin-film photovoltaic cells and panels (in line with an agreement of 4 January). The partners have now signed a binding letter of commitment for a project financing agreement of €150m.

Each partner brings specialist knowledge and skills to the JV, say the firms. EGP has expertise in developing renewable energy on an international scale and in project management. Sharp is contributing its exclusive III-V-based triple-junction thin-film PV technology, which entered production this March at its new GREEN FRONT SAKAI plant in Osaka Prefecture, Japan. ST has manufacturing know-how with highly trained specialists in technology sectors such as microelectronics.

By using an unfinished former 300mm silicon fab shell in Catania, Sicily, Italy belonging to ST, 3Sun will begin producing thin-film solar panels in second-half 2011, with an annual capacity of 160MW initially making it Italy’s biggest solar panel plant (and expanding to 480MW in the future).

Initial capacity is to be financed through a combination of self-financing, the €49m funding from the CIPE, and project financing provided by leading banks. Each JV partner has has underwritten one third of the equity, with a commitment of €70m in cash or in tangible and intangible assets.

The panels will be marketed mainly in Europe and the Mediterranean area through the sales networks of Sharp and EGP., an EGP subsidiary that installs PV systems for the retail market, will also market the panels through its franchise network of over 500 approved installers throughout Italy.

Also on 22 July the joint venture Enel Green Power & Sharp Solar Energy S.r.l (ESSE) was formed in Rome, Italy between EGP (50%), Sharp (40%) and Italian sales subsidiary Sharp Electronics (Italia) S.p.A. (10%). Using thin-film solar panels produced by 3Sun, ESSE will be an independent power producer (IPP) developing, building and operating plants for generating photovoltaic power for sale to utilities and end-users in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), with a particular focus on the Mediterranean area (where EGP and Sharp already have extensive sales networks).

Thin-film photovoltaic panels suit large-scale solar power generation (especially in Mediterranean areas including southern Europe) since, compared to silicon-type solar cells, they can maintain their conversion efficiency even in hot climates. ESSE aims to establish power generation plants with a total capacity of more than 500MW by the end of 2016.

Sharp adds that, through collaboration with a power generating company, it aims to become a ‘total solution’ company in photovoltaics, initiating what is claimed to be the first business model extending from thin-film solar cell production to IPP business.

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