With the rising uptake of solar power in the commercial and industrial consumer space, a number of specialist developers have emerged, who own and operate these solar projects for the consumers wanting cheaper solar power. Singapore-based Cleantech Solar is one such player. Renewable Watch speaks to Dr André Nobre, head of operations and maintenance at Cleantech Solar about the company’s experience in the Indian solar power segment, various challenges faced by developers and future plans of the company.
What is your perspective on the current state of the solar power sector in India?
There is a massive potential for solar power in India and a substantial degree of success has already been achieved. At Cleantech Solar, for example, we have seen our portfolio grow tremendously to cross 250 MW in a short span of four years and we can see the pathway to far larger numbers ahead.
While the government’s ambitious goal of achieving a 100 GW installed capacity by 2022 may face some headwinds; the fact that solar tariff has met and now meaningfully gone beyond grid parity is a big organic driver of demand and adoption of solar. Most of the top multinational and Indian corporates have not only declared, but in fact already started on their journey towards 100 per cent renewable energy and carbon neutrality. Many of these firms are our close partners and we are helping them achieve this goal. We expect this trend to accelerate and solar power is certain to be a large and increasing component of their energy mix.
What are the biggest challenges for the sector? What is the way forward for addressing them?
In a manner of speaking, solar PV has already become the least expensive source of power in India. Hence, the growth can be expected to be self-propelled even in absence of any subsidies. The largest hurdle today in India is regulatory clarity and willingness of regulators to let the industry and the country have access to this inexpensive form of power. The industry has delivered the technology, the capital and the manpower to power India’s solar revolution; but the true catalyst and game changer will be clarity and consistency of regulations; so far, this has been missing.
What has been your most memorable assignment during your career and why?
I was formerly the Head of PV System Technology at the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS). One of my projects in my nearly seven year stint with SERIS was the deployment of a 1 MW test-bed floating PV system on a reservoir (comprising 10 different players using different floating solutions for 100 kW each). The project was extremely complex, as it involved Singaporean government agencies, professional engineers, consultants, scientists and contractors. All in all, it took three years just to get the first system on the water due to such complexity. So it was quite a personal achievement to have conducted the process as the Project Manager in charge.
Luckily, such skills in managing complex project settings can be transferrable to our team of nearly 50 engineers so that we can offer solar PV solutions for a variety of client types, irrespective of their roof types, production facilities and general project boundary conditions.
What is Cleantech Solar’s roadmap?
Since inception, Cleantech Solar has aimed to deliver very high quality, reliable, efficient and long-term solar power solutions to the top corporates who are committed to renewable energy and truly value a partner of the highest quality. Over the years, we have come to lead the India market in the corporate renewable energy service company (RESCO) segment with over 20 per cent market share. Very recently, we have inked an agreement for a strategic investment in Cleantech Solar by Shell Eastern Petroleum (Pte) Ltd (Shell).
So, clearly, our efforts in the past have been rewarded with success; and the credit goes to our customers who have shown true understanding of what makes solar power and Cleantech Solar special. However, as we look into the future, we foresee growth that is multiple folds of where Cleantech Solar and the industry have already reached today. Solar is just beginning to be a true source of base load power as opposed to a marginal contributor.