INOLA, Okla. (OBV) – A leading global renewable energy company is investing over $1 billion in Oklahoma to build an industrial-scale solar cell and panel manufacturing facility in Inola.
Enel North America, a Massachusetts-based company, plans to begin construction on the 2 million square foot, 3 gigawatt (GW) factory this fall. The factory is expected to be up and running, producing solar panels, by the end of 2024. The company’s affiliate, 3Sun USA, LLC, announced Inola as the location for the new factory, saying it will build “innovative, sustainable and American-made photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules.”
“We are proud to help usher in a new era of American-made energy and do so with a state that is already a leader in the energy industry. Our selection of Oklahoma is a testament to the strength of the Tulsa Port of Inola site, the state’s commitment to workforce development, and an attractive investment climate,” said Giovanni Bertolino, head of 3Sun USA. “With this announcement, we are taking a major step forward in developing a state-of-the-art PV factory, bringing hundreds of jobs and millions in long-term tax revenue, while moving Oklahoma to the forefront of renewables manufacturing.”
Building the factory will create over 1,800 construction jobs, and operation of the factory will create around 1,000 permanent jobs in Oklahoma by 2025. Though the factory will initially have a 3 GW capacity, it has the potential for a second phase that would scale the factory to reach 6 GW of annual production, creating an additional 900 new direct jobs, according to Enel officials.
Gov. Kevin Stitt celebrated the announcement, touting it as a massive step in Oklahoma’s economic and workforce growth.
“When I took office, I promised to bring Oklahoma to the world, and the world to Oklahoma; and today’s historic announcement is a testament to that mission, our business-friendly environment and more of everything energy approach,” Stitt said. “Enel’s expansion is a huge win for Oklahoma, and I’m thrilled by their record investment in our state’s economy and workforce, that will have a lasting legacy and continue to impact Oklahomans for generations.”
The energy company has had a presence in Oklahoma for more than a decade, with $3 billion in investments that include13 wind farms and a regional office in Oklahoma City.
Enel was founded in Italy in 1962, fusing more than 1,000 energy producers and becoming the European nation’s entity for electricity. Hydroelectric power was the company’s starting point. Enel later extended Italy’s power grid, connecting it to the European network. The company continued to grow and explored alternative energy sources, including nuclear, solar and wind.
“Then the Italian electricity market was liberalized, and we became a private company. Our business focus was the production, distribution, and supply of energy,” the company’s website states.
Enel expanded into the United States in 2000, purchasing CHI Energy, Inc., North America’s first renewably energy plant. CHI was renamed Enel North America in 2003.
The company committed to the United Nations Global Compact – an initiative devoted in part to protecting the environment – in 2004 and launched an Open Power strategy, collaborating with companies, research centers, institutions, startups and universities to develop new energy solutions.
“Now that climate change has become increasingly evident, we are fully aware of the impact the new energy era can have. We have stepped up our investments in digitalization, e-mobility, circular economy, and decarbonization,” the company’s website states. “Today our sustainable approach to creating long-term shared value is guiding the energy transition. And we aim to carry on finding new, innovative tools to contribute to positive growth, without ever losing sight of the future of our society.”
3Sun, a market leader in producing high-efficiency cells, unveiled the company’s new heterojunction technology (HJT) solar module in September 2022 and will begin production in September 2023.
“The double-sided HJT can secure higher than average energy production, producing approximately 15-20% more electricity than conventional single-sided panels, and offers significant efficiency improvements, with a certified cell efficiency of 24.6%,” an Enel news release states. “In addition, the technology’s lower degradation ensures a longer useful life for modules, and the cells’ high density is conducive to a variety of applications, including land-constrained utility-scale installations or rooftops.”
3Sun will also introduce its next generation tandem cell technology, which achieved a record-breaking certified efficiency of 26.5% by utilizing two stacked cells that allows for more light to be captured compared to single-cell structures.
Several Oklahoma leaders expressed their enthusiasm for the new Enel factory. Their statements are included below:
“The announcement of Enel’s investment is a welcome outcome from our months of discussions with company leadership, legislative negotiations and work with site selectors and developers. I appreciate Enel for recognizing the potential in Oklahoma and choosing to expand their footprint here. I also thank my legislative colleagues for passing legislation this year to allow this expansion to happen. These are good, high paying jobs that will attract people to Oklahoma, in turn helping grow and diversify our economy.”Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat
“A project of this scale – bringing over a billion dollars of investment and millions in economic impact to our state – proves pro-business policies we have enacted in recent years are working. We have all the right conditions to continue to get projects of this magnitude, and we must continue to press even harder to make Oklahoma the most business-friendly, and family-friendly, state in the nation.”House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka
“We are proud to collaborate with our regional partners and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce for a business expansion effort that will bring long-term quality jobs to the Cherokee Nation Reservation. Cherokee Nation has consistently been at the local forefront of the movement towards a cleaner, more sustainable future. 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. The talented workforce required for this kind of expansion will largely be Cherokee and it will have a tremendous economic impact for local families.”Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.
“We are excited to welcome Enel North America to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and look forward to the opportunities this partnership will bring including sustained regional job creation and growth, new economic prospects, and the development of workforce talent within the greater Tulsa area and our Reservation. To strengthen the Nation’s collaborative efforts with existing and in-coming partners like the Tulsa Regional Chamber and Enel North America, we also look to mobilize current tribal services such as Employment & Training and Tribal Transportation Services for the empowerment and betterment of our communities.”Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill
“Tulsa Ports is proud to welcome Enel’s 3Sun solar panel manufacturing facility to the Tulsa Port of Inola. At the end of 2019, Public Service Company of Oklahoma transferred 2,200 acres of industrial land to Tulsa Ports so that we could develop the necessary infrastructure to attract high-impact economic development projects. With this exciting announcement, we are continuing to fulfill that shared vision and believe that Enel will be a great partner for the long-term economic success and development of the Tulsa Region and the State of Oklahoma.”Dewey F. Bartlett, Jr., Board Chairman, Tulsa Ports
“This project got off the ground last May when the Tulsa Regional Chamber and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce held meetings with an Enel executive during the PGA Men’s Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa. So, it speaks directly to how tourism can be the perfect gateway to economic development. Enel North America has a global reputation for blazing new trails with clean energy, and this long-term commitment to Oklahoma as a solar panel supplier will shine a light on the Port of Inola and its ability to accommodate large-scale development.”Arthur Jackson, senior vice president of economic development for the Tulsa Regional Chamber
“This is the largest economic development project in state history, bringing over a billion in investment into our state and hundreds of long-term jobs. It was a group effort to get this over the finish line, and we are thankful for the Governor, the Legislature, the Tulsa Port of Inola Industrial Park, Tulsa Regional Chamber and SelectUSA for coming alongside the Department of Commerce to get this deal done. The success of this project proves what we’ve known for a long time – Oklahoma can support mega projects, both in terms of sites and workforce, and this gives us exciting momentum as we seek more projects like this one.”Brent Kisling, Executive Director, Department of Commerce