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Oklahoma Lures Solar Panel Plant With The Help Of Tax Perks

The transition to clean energy in the U.S. will be partly funded with tax dollars, as government agencies at the federal and state level aim to meet climate goals through public-private partnerships. An example was recently unveiled in Oklahoma, where the state legislature approved a $180 million incentive package to attract a major solar cell and panel manufacturing plant. 

The facility will be built by Enel North America, a Massachusetts-based renewable energy company that makes and manages assets such as hydropower, wind, geothermal, and solar projects. The firm announced through its 3Sun USA, LLC affiliate in May that it would build a site in Inola, OK, producing photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules. 

According to a press release, the factory will span more than 2 million square feet and is expected to have an annual production capacity of 3 gigawatts (GW). Enel North America said the project will create more than 1,800 construction jobs and about 1,000 new direct permanent jobs by 2025.

Construction is expected to begin in the fall of 2023, and the first panels should hit the market by the end of 2024.

Photo Courtesy Enel 

The project includes “the potential” for a second phase to expand the factory to 6 GW of annual production and create an additional 900 new direct jobs. The massive Inola facility builds on Enel North America’s presence in Oklahoma, which already has more than 2 GW of renewable energy generating capacity. The company claims to have invested over $3 billion in the Sooner State over the last decade. 

The planned plant will be among the first in the U.S. to produce solar cells, which Enel North America called “the fundamental building block of PV modules.”

“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,” Giovanni Bertolino, head of 3Sun USA, said in the press release.

The announcement came after months of discussions between Enel North America, 3Sun USA, and Oklahoma lawmakers.

Photo Courtesy Enel 

“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,” Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said in a statement.

The project was announced after Stitt and the Oklahoma legislature agreed to give Enel North America $180 million in tax rebates if the company “reaches certain benchmarks over the next several years,” the Seattle Times reported.

To qualify for the entire $180 million, Enel North America must commit to at least $1.8 billion in qualifying capital expenditures and create 1,400 permanent new jobs.

In addition, Oklahoma officials agreed to earmark more than $38 million in public funds for water and wastewater system upgrades in the region.

Enel North America is a subsidiary of Enel Group, an Italian energy company that entered Oklahoma in 2012 when it built the Rocky Ridge wind farm, The Oklahoman reported. The firm has since constructed or broken ground on 13 wind farms in the state.

Photo Courtesy Enel 

Enel North America’s sustainability goals include attaining net zero emissions by 2040. Its energy generation fleet is already 100% renewables-based, and its decarbonization focuses on Scope 2 and 3 emissions.

The company serves more than 4,500 businesses, utilities, and cities in areas ranging from renewable power generation and distributed energy resources to smart e-mobility, energy trading, and consulting services. As of May 2023, its portfolio included more than 9.6 GW of utility-scale renewable capacity, 606 megawatts (MW) of utility-scale energy storage, and 76 MW of distributed energy storage capacity.

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