Italian solar panel maker Enel Group has chosen Inola, Okla., to locate its first U.S.-based plant. The intention to build the $1-billion plant, announced last November, is considered a sign that federal and state economic incentives are enticing foreign companies to invest in the American renewable energy market.
Construction is expected to start this fall on the 2 million-sq-ft facility. Production and sale of the photovoltaic panels is anticipated by the end of next year. The facility is expected to reach 3 GW annual capacity in 2025, with possible expansion to 6 GW.
Enel North America's affiliate 3Sun USA said it chose the Inola site because of easy access to barge and rail transportation. Inola is home to the Port of Tulsa.
Andrew Ralston, Tulsa Ports economic development director, told ENR that a general contractor and design firm will be named soon.
The U.S. is seeing an uptick in renewable energy harnessing and manufacturing, mainly due to the federal Inflation Reduction Act funding and incentive package enacted last year and to state efforts. Less than five large-scale solar panel production plants operate in the U.S., but annual domestic solar photovoltaic installations are forecasted to jump from 16 GW last year to 41 GW by the end of next year, a report by Wood MacKenzie found.
For Enel, the Inola federal and state financial incentives sealed the deal.
"Recent policy tailwinds from the Inflation Reduction Act have served as a catalyst for our solar manufacturing ambitions in the U.S., ushering in a new era of made-in-America energy,” Enrico Viale, head of Enel North America said in announcing the plant.
Giovanni Bertolino, head of 3Sun USA, said Oklahoma investment incentives were a deciding factor to build there, citing a $180-million funding package. In exchange, the company must create 1,400 jobs, according to published reports.
Bertolino cited the Perform Act, a rebate bill to attract major companies to the state. In its state deal, Enel can recover 10% of its capital outlay and payroll cost with its $1-billion investment. The state offered $180 million in incentives, if Enel invests $1.8 billion over the next decade.
Additionally, lawmakers set aside nearly $39 million for water and sewer improvements at the port.
While Oklahoma is the fifth largest domestic producer of natural gas, and sixth in crude oil production, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, it has found success in renewable energies. The state is fourth in the U.S. for wind, solar and energy storage-capacity and third for installed wind capacity. About 45% of Oklahoma's total electricity is generated from renewable resources, making it fifth in the U.S., according to a spokesperson for the Oklahoma Dept. of Commerce.
Additionally, the state is third in the nation for total renewable production including wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and biodiesel and it is sixth in the U.S. for solar potential.
In the state, $23 billion of capital is invested in wind, solar and energy storage projects, says the spokesperson.