After Tesla snub, Oklahoma lands a 3 GW solar factory

Enel North America has officially named Oklahoma as its choice for its 3-gigawatt (GW) solar panel and cell factory – the largest economic development project in the state’s history.

The factory, which Enel first announced in November 2022, will be one of the largest in the US to produce solar cells through its affiliate 3Sun USA – and Enel says it eventually plans to double the factory’s capacity to 6 GW.

The solar factory is going to be in Inola, Oklahoma, about 25 miles east of Tulsa. Construction is planned to begin in fall 2023, and the first panel will be produced and available to the market by the end of 2024.

Giovanni Bertolino, head of 3Sun USA, said:

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.

The more than two million-square-foot factory represents a planned investment in excess of $1 billion, and it will create more than 1,800 construction jobs and 1,000 new direct permanent jobs by 2025. Up to 900 more jobs would be created if the factory scales to 6 GW.

Enel North America already has an office in Oklahoma City and more than 2 GW of renewable energy generating capacity in Oklahoma, representing more than $3 billion in total investments over the last decade.

Meanwhile, Tesla’s primary battery cell supplier, Panasonic, is looking to build a third factory in the US. in July 2022, Panasonic snubbed snubbed Oklahoma and chose Kansas instead for the location of its second battery cell factory. (Its first factory is in Nevada.)

So officially landing Enel North America’s enormous solar factory is a huge official win for Oklahoma, and undoubtedly takes the sting out of losing out to Kansas.

Governor Kevin Stitt (R-OK) 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.

President Joe Biden said today about the Enel announcement:

Because of my Inflation Reduction Act, private capital is being invested in Oklahoma and all across the country, as communities step up to help build our clean energy economy. 

While Republicans in Congress try to defund our Investing in America agenda, we will stand with working families to keep those jobs here in states like Oklahoma.

Enrico Viale, head of Enel North America, recently said that “policy tailwinds from the Inflation Reduction Act have served as a catalyst for our solar manufacturing ambitions in the US, ushering in a new era of made-in-America energy.”

But all five Oklahoma representatives – all Republicans – voted against the Inflation Reduction Act, and also voted for Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s proposal to defund the clean energy provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act that have mobilized these types of clean energy investments.

Representative Josh Brecheen (R-OK) is a cosponsor for legislation that “repeals the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.”

On April 17, Electrek reported that it Oklahoma is back in the running with Panasonic for its third factory. (Or, Panasonic could choose Kansas or Nevada again.)

Maybe the Sooner State will get lucky with Panasonic and Tesla in Round 2. Its Republican-majority state legislators successfully worked to incentivize Enel’s factory. Will its federal legislators publicly admit that the IRA is a catalyst for Oklahoma’s economic growth? I’m not holding my breath.

Photo: Enel North America


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