“We have a 2 GW footprint in India”

Interview with Arctech Solar India’s Allen Cao

Arctech Solar is pulling out all the stops to capture the growing opportunities in the Indian solar power space. Allen Cao, director, Arctech Solar India, talks about the company’s strategy for the Indian market and the key challenges…

How would you rate the performance of the solar power segment in India in terms of the opportunities and challenges?

The 100 GW target makes India a booming market and there is no doubt that it will emerge as one of the top three solar markets in the world in 2017. We see great potential in the Indian solar market, at least over the next five years. While the growth opportunities are obvious, the challenges and associated risks cannot be sidelined. Due to stringent project delivery timelines, most of the projects are executed in an extremely short time frame. Planning and coordination become major contributing factors in achieving the stiff targets. Module mounting structure (MMS) suppliers have to face the major brunt because the design is normally finalised last but site delivery is expected much ahead of other materials. We try very hard to satisfy the requirements laid down by our customers by leveraging our huge production capacity and adapting an advanced inventory control systems. We have never let our customers down.

What is Arctech’s perspective on the solar energy segment in India? What are its strategies and plans?

Several new trends emerged in this market:

  • Solar tracker projects scaled up from 100 MW to 1 GW within a year.
  • The solar rooftop market has heated up in the past one year, especially in the commercial and industrial segments, due to various policies announced by the states.
  • The Indian solar market exceeded the 10 GW milestone. Since many developers and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies have gained expertise in managing utility-scale installations, it will help in further ramping up the installation capacity. Besides high quality products and on-time delivery, after-sales support is the most important deciding factor for our clients while opting for our solutions. We have built a strong local service team in India, which allows Arctech Solar to render professional and timely technical support.

What is the company’s project pipeline and long-term targets?

We have achieved a record 2 GW installation footprint in India, which includes 650 MW of solar trackers. We have signed MoUs and firm agreements with several top IPPs, developers and EPC companies, with a strong pipeline of more than 2 GW backing us. According to Greentech Media research, Arctech Solar is the number one solar tracker supplier in the Asia-Pacific, Indian and Chinese markets. At Arctech Solar, we take the Indian market as one of the two home markets, besides China. In India, we want to be viewed as an Indian company, which means localisation of more aspects of our business and long-term commitments.

What are your manufacturing plans in India?

We do plan to set up manufacturing facilities in India and will announce the details at the right time.

What is your outlook for the solar tracker market, both in India and globally?

Solar trackers are the most effective equipment to help investors increase their IRR, with some IPPs considering a 100 per cent tracker portfolio. In 2016, the global tracker installation capacity was estimated at 11.6 GW, 20 per cent of the total installed volume. We are expecting the percentage to further increase by 40-45 per cent in the next five years. In India, solar trackers are facing cost pressures since the tariff has dropped dramatically in the past six months. Arctech Solar has worked out different solutions to enhance the tracker’s IRR advantage. We also want to appeal to the government to issue a policy to encourage new technologies in the solar energy segment, such as solar trackers and robotic cleaning systems.

What technology advancements can be expected in this space going forward?

The Rs 2.44 per kWh tariff price will force solar panel and balance of system (BoS) costs to come down. It will also encourage the use of new technologies such as high efficiency solar panels, robotic cleaning systems and systems integration. Arctech Solar’s R&D team has made a lot of innovations and we treat our tracker systems and MMS as a platform to integrate different technologies. For example, we have released an integrated solar tracker design that allows trackers and inverters to share power and communication cables. No UPS or battery is needed for trackers, eventually saving BoS costs. Using higher efficiency modules, such as bifacial PV modules, on solar trackers will reduce BoS costs significantly and, importantly, solve the land limitation issue. We can also further think of a combination of tracker and robot cleaning technology.

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