The Indian solar segment has witnessed exponential growth over the past few years. In a matter of three years, the country’s installed solar capacity has tripled to cross 10 GW, and this trend is likely to continue in future on the back of growing demand and government support. The government’s “Make in India” initiative has encouraged a number of companies to establish and expand their manufacturing facilities in the country. One such company is Tata Power Solar.
Rated as a Tier I module manufacturer by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, it is one of the largest manufacturers of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules in India. On account of the increasing demand, in March 2017, the company expanded its module manufacturing capacity from 200 MW to 400 MW. It also increased the cell manufacturing capacity of its plant in Bengaluru, Karnataka by 65 per cent, from 180 MW to 300 MW. As part of this expansion, the second in less than three years, the company has also modernised and fully automated its entire manufacturing facility.
“Silicon prices have reduced, by virtue of which cell and module prices have come down. I don’t think viability is under question. What is important is that if silicon prices see a reverse trend, there would then be a challenge. Otherwise, if they continue to go down, it is good for the customer, it is good for everyone,” says Anil Sardana, chairman, Tata Power Solar.
According to Ashish Khanna, executive director and chief executive officer, Tata Power Solar, the company has spent more than Rs 1 billion on automation alone. “This expansion and modernisation have come against the backdrop of our landmark achievement of being the first Indian company to have shipped 1 GW of modules worldwide,” says Khanna.
In February 2017, Tata Power Solar announced that it had shipped 1 GW of solar modules to over 30 countries including the US, Canada, Australia, and countries in Europe. Of these, over 60 per cent have been shipped over the past five years. This is on account of the growth in the global solar market.
Strong presence in rooftop solar
Founded in 1989, Tata Power Solar was originally formed as a joint venture between the Tata Group and British Petroleum Solar. It is now a 100 per cent subsidiary of Tata Power. The company operates in three segments —solar cell and module manufacturing; engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services for solar power projects; and development of innovative solar products. While it is one of the top players in the manufacturing domain, the company has also performed well in the EPC space, particularly in the rooftop segment.
Tata Power Solar has executed over 140 MW of rooftop projects across India. Over the past year, the company has installed nearly 40 MW of rooftop solar projects, with the majority of its customers belonging to the industrial and commercial segments. One of its recent projects is the 12 MW rooftop project for the Radhasoami Satsang Beas Educational and Environment Society (RSSB-EES) in Punjab. It is the largest solar rooftop plant in the world, which was installed in a single phase on a single campus. Set up under the Punjab government’s grid-connected rooftop solar project scheme, the plant produces more than 15 million units of power annually. In addition, the company has installed a number of prominent rooftop projects such as a 4.45 MW project for Asian Paints, a 1.2 MW project for Gujarat Energy Development Agency, a 2 MW plant for Murugan Textiles and a 1.25 MW project for SASTRA University, along with multiple residential and industrial projects.
In the rooftop space, which is attracting multiple players, Tata Power Solar with its quality modules and timely installation is known widely as one of the leading rooftop solar players in India. According to a BRIDGE TO INDIA report, as of September 2016, the total installed capacity in the rooftop segment was 1,020 MW. Of this, in terms of market share, Tata Power Solar was nearly four times ahead of its closest competitor.
The company has received a number of awards in the past few years. A key one is the Rooftop Solar Power Project Award received from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in the channel partner/EPC contract category, in June 2016. The commissioning of 112.5 MW of projects till 2016 was the key factor for receiving the award. Two of the company’s rooftop installations – the 12 MW RSSB-EES project and the 1.8 MW IIT Roorkee project – also won awards.
Large-scale projects and industrial solutions
The company has executed over 330 MW of EPC projects of multiple sizes across India. It has enabled consumers to switch to captive solar plants to power their factories and businesses. For instance, it helped Ultratech meet its renewable purchase obligation by designing and commissioning 25 solar power stations of 100 kWp each at its six facilities across five states within a record time span of five months. Tata Power Solar also successfully commissioned a 4.8 MW project in March 2016 for Rajaram Maize Products. This helped it become a 100 per cent renewable energy company, as it now meets its entire power requirement through renewable energy.
In addition, it commissioned a 100 MW solar project for NTPC in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh, in August 2016. It is the biggest solar project commissioned using domestically manufactured solar cells and modules. The company delivered the project nearly three months ahead of the stringent schedule. The key highlights of the project are the innovative design of balance of system and cabling, along with an optimised selection of evacuation systems.
Tata Power Solar manufactures and distributes solar PV products for both rural and urban markets. The company has formed strategic alliances with the government, renewable energy development agencies, non-profit foundations and grameen banks to provide access to basic amenities (water, light and electricity) to the needy. It has also deployed solar installations and products such as solar pumping systems, powerpacks and home lighting systems in various villages across the country.
Owing to a glut in the global solar market in 2008, there was a decline in demand for Indian solar modules. As a result, the company faced a challenging time during the past decade. The decline in demand was arrested after the government launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), creating demand for locally manufactured products.
Despite the positives introduced by the JNNSM, the company still faces stiff competition from international players. Owing to the global production capacity, which is higher than the demand, there is a possibility of domestic solar modules losing out to inexpensive imports from China. According to BRIDGE TO INDIA, in 2016, eight out of the top 10 solar module suppliers in the Indian market were from China, as against just four in 2015. Hence, going forward, there is a need to provide more incentives to ensure a level playing field for domestic solar manufacturers.
“The current support system is based primarily on the Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme (MSIPS), where we get limited benefits on the capex employed,” says Khanna.
Despite the odds, the company is well placed in the solar power segment and is working towards establishing a strong foothold in the market. With the government’s support and initiatives such as “Make in India”, significant opportunities are likely to open up for the company.