Enel chooses Oklahoma as home of first US solar panel factory

Dive Brief:

  • Solar panel manufacturer Enel North America has chosen Inola, Oklahoma, as the home of its first U.S.-based factory. 
  • The more than $1 billion project, which was first announced by the company late last year, will have up to 3 gigawatts of production capacity by 2025, with the possibility of a future expansion to 6 GW. 
  • Construction on the 2-million-square-foot facility will start later this year, with the first panels made at the site ready for market by the end of 2024. Hiring for production-related jobs is slated to begin later this year.

Dive Insight:

Enel’s new factory adds to its more than 10-year presence in Oklahoma, which includes 13 wind farms and a regional office in Oklahoma City, according to a press release. The Italy-based company is now pushing further into U.S. solar production as federal funding entices a growing number of foreign manufacturing investment. 

The factory will be run by its North America affiliate, 3Sun USA. 

The Inola site offers Enel both proximity to its existing operations in the state, as well as the logistical advantages of being located at the Tulsa Port of Inola, which offers easy access to rail and barge transportation. 

Giovanni Bertolino, head of 3Sun USA, highlighted the state’s attractive investment climate, including the recently passed Perform Act, as reason to choose the location in an email to Manufacturing Dive. The legislation is a $180 million incentive package for Enel as it builds the site, in exchange for the creation of 1,400 jobs. 

Bertolino also noted that the site is “very well positioned to support a fast deployment of our project in order to meet our target schedule.”

The company is now “engaging with prospective suppliers” as it looks to build out its U.S.-based solar supply chain, Bertolino said. 

As part of the Tulsa Port of Inola, the facility will be located on Muscogee (Creek) Nation land, as well as nearby Cherokee Nation land. Enel plans to work with both tribes on hiring and other project developments, though the nature of the partnership is still in development, Bertolino said in an email. 

“With Enel North America establishing a production facility in Rogers County, we are seeing a positive step forward in advancing alternative energy efforts and promoting green energy manufacturing in a Cherokee community,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in a statement. “The talented workforce required for this kind of expansion will largely be Cherokee and it will have a tremendous economic impact for local families.”

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