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Oklahoma lures Enel solar panel manufacturing facility with $180M incentive package

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Enel North America announced Monday it plans to build a solar cell and panel manufacturing facility in eastern Oklahoma that would employ about 1,000 people after the Legislature agreed to a $180 million incentive package to help lure the company.

The company will invest $1 billion in the project, which includes the construction of a 2 million-square-foot solar photovoltaic cell and panel manufacturing facility that will have an annual production capacity of 3 gigawatts, it said in a statement. Construction on the massive facility is expected to begin in the fall in Inola, Oklahoma, which is located about 27 miles (43 kilometers) east of Tulsa.

“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 Enel North America's affiliate 3Sun USA.

The decision was announced after the Legislature and Gov. Kevin Stitt agreed to provide the company with $180 million in tax rebates if the company reaches certain benchmarks over the next several years. In order to qualify for the entire $180 million, the company would have to spend at least $1.8 billion in qualifying capital expenditures and create 1,400 permanent new jobs.

Oklahoma also agreed to spend more than $38 million on water and wastewater system upgrades to the inland waterways in the region, including at the Port of Inola.

Enel North America's parent company is based in Italy, and European companies have been eying the U.S. to invest in the green energy boom, weighing up the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act’s $375 billion in benefits for renewable industries.

President Joe Biden said in a statement the announcement is evidence that his Investment in America agenda, which includes the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, is helping to boost domestic manufacturing.

“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,” Biden said.

Stitt called the expansion “a huge win for Oklahoma.”

Tribal leaders in Oklahoma, including Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin and Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill, also praised the project.

Enel says it has already invested more than $3 billion over the last decade in 13 wind farms across Oklahoma that generate more than 2 gigawatts of annual production, along with a regional office in Oklahoma City to support its workforce.

Construction of the factory is expected to create more than 1,800 construction jobs and an investment of more than $1 billion. It is expected to create around 1,000 new, permanent jobs by 2025. The company says the project also includes the potential for a second phase that would increase production to 6 gigawatts and create an additional 900 jobs.

Oklahoma lawmakers are also considering a separate package of incentives to lure a second Panasonic manufacturing facility to the Sooner State after the state last year lost out in a bidding war with Kansas, which the Japan-based company ultimately selected as the location for a multibillion-dollar mega-factory to produce electric vehicle batteries for Tesla and other carmakers.

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Follow Sean Murphy on Twitter: @apseanmurphy