STMicroelectronics is making its move into the solar market with a joint venture operation with Sharp and Italian utility operator Enel Green Power. The equal partners are set to invest €320 million to establish an initial production capacity of 160MW at an existing but shuttered former 300mm semiconductor fab owned by STMicroelectronics in Catania, Italy. Thin film module production is expected to start at the beginning of 2011 and ramped over several years to a targeted 480MW annual capacity.
Enel Green Power and Sharp have also signed an additional agreement to install cumulative capacity at a level of 500MW by the end of 2016, using modules from the Catania plant. The agreement signals the move by Sharp to enter to the power generation market and become a fully integrated PV manufacturer.
The partners are targeting utility-scale installations in Europe and the Mediterranean area through the sales networks of Sharp and EGP. Sharp noted that hotter climates are better suited to thin film modules as performance of the modules are not degraded compared to conventional crystalline modules.
The STMicroelectronics semiconductor fab in Catania, dubbed M6 has never been used since construction was completed in 2004. The fab was also transferred to another semiconductor joint venture, Numonyx but the NOR Flash memory producer has made no attempt to use the facility.
Sharp had noted in September, 2009 that its triple junction cells would have 12% conversion efficiencies when entered into production in 2011 at its new factory in Osaka, Japan.