LONDON – A building in Catania, Sicily, that was originally constructed by STMicroelectronics to house a 300-mm wafer fab, has been inaugurated as a manufacturing site for photovoltaic panels. And the plant is going to be its own first customer with plans to site a 1-megawatt solar energy farm on the roof of the building.
The building, formerly known as M6, was an empty shell for many years and ST could never justify to itself the need to facilitate another 300-mm wafer fab. Now the building is coming to life as a factory run by 3Sun, a three-part equal-share joint venture between Enel Green Power, Sharp and STMicroelectronics.
It is manufacturing integrated multi-junction, thin-film photovoltaic cells and modules and has an initial production capacity of solar cells per year sufficient to generate 160-megawatts of energy, which could be tripled to 480-megawatts annual output over time. The plant is already the largest solar panel factory in Italy and one of the largest in Europe, ST Microelectronics said, in a statement.
The three partners have each put up 70 million euro (about $100 million) in cash and other assets. ST has provided the M6 shell as well as trained staff. The multijunction technology came from Sharp and Enel has provided knowledge of solar plant operation and routes to market. The project has also received 49 million euro in project support as well as support from Banca IMI, Centrobanca and Unicredit.
The output from the Catania factory is intended to be used in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Enel Green Power and Sharp have formed a second joint venture, called ESSE, to use that output to develop, build and operate solar cell deployments and farms with an output of 500-megawatts by 2016, ST said.
As a first step ESSE is going to use the output of the factory to build a 1-megawatt photovoltaic plant on the roof of the factory.
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