“We continue to evaluate expansion strategies”

Interview with Adani Solar’s Ramesh Nair

The much delayed manufacturing-linked solar tender released by the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) has received a good response, with Adani Green Energy Limited submitting a bid for 4 GW of generation capacity along with 1 GW of annual production capacity. If all goes as per the plan, the Adani Group’s solar manufacturing arm and one of the country’s leading PV manufacturers, Adani Solar, will extend its manufacturing capacity by 1 GW. In a recent interview with Renewable Watch, Ramesh Nair, chief executive officer, Adani Solar, discussed the recent developments in the Indian solar manufacturing space, the key technology trends and the outlook for the segment…

What have been the significant developments in the renewable energy sector in 2019? How have these impacted the manufacturing segment?

Renewable energy is the future in India as well as globally. India has tremendous renewable energy potential and the government’s goal of installing 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 looks achievable with the right policies and industry participation. The government is making the right moves to premote manufacturing in this sector. The sector will find further growth with the uptake of battery storage. Further, batteries will play a large role in the EV segment and significantly reduce the use of fossil fuels in transportation. Since in India per capita power consumption is quite low at less than 1,000 units, there is a lot of scope for renewable and conventional energy forms to exist side by side.

What are the issues and concerns in the solar manufacturing segment?

The key concerns in Indian manufacturing are the dependence on imports for raw materials, the incremental cost of transportation, and the lack of support for capex, depreciation subsidy or rebates. This, in turn, is increasing the overall cost of products. Also, Indian manufacturers operate at 5 per cent and 10 per cent of the cell and module manufacturing capacities, respectively, of our neighbouring countries. Such low economies of scale further increase the cost of products.

These concerns are being offset by viability gap funding and other central financial assistance provided by the MNRE, but this funding only caters to a part of the overall market as the OCR market is still open to manufacturers across the world. Indian manufacturers struggle to compete against imports in terms of pricing in the OCR segment. We believe that the government is also working to alleviate these concerns through different tariffs, which will enable the local manufacturer to compete with imports.

Do you have plans to expand your manufacturing capacity in India?

As part of the company’s business growth strategy, we continue to evaluate expansion strategies. A conducive business environment is pivotal to our expansion plan. At present, we are India’s largest integrated solar cell and module manufacturer with a capacity of 1.2 GW at Mundra, Gujarat. The state-of-the-art manufacturing facility with multilevel infrastructure is optimised for scaling up to 3 GW of module and cell manufacturing in one location.

What is the demand outlook for the Indian renewable energy manufacturing sector in the short to medium term?

We predict module capacity to exceed 12-13 GW in the next five to eight months from the current levels of 10 GW, and an additional 5-7 GW in the next 36 months. We might see by additional cell manufacturing capacity of 2-3 GW in the next 12 months and 5-7 GW of capacity in the next 36 months.

The new capacity additions are being propelled by several supportive Make in India schemes through CPSU, KUSUM and other PSU and SECI manufacturing-linked tenders. We also anticipate a domestic demand of 4-5 GW year on year on account of multiple schemes.

What are Adani Solar’s key offerings for solar projects in India?

I think the most important offering of any module manufacturer is reliability, that is, product reliability and company reliability. With Adani Solar you get both. We manufacture cells and modules in-house, and are also looking to set up a one-of-its-kind wafer and ingot facility in India. We provide the best quality product along with the reliability associated with the group. This sets us apart from other solar manufacturers that are only dependent on the solar business.

Solar modules are already at their lowest in terms of pricing, and we do not expect a variation of more than 5 per cent in the next few years. But the cost of project ownership will continue to go down though not by a big margin. This is because module prices will not go down, but high efficiency modules will become more popular, which will drive down the balance of system costs, resulting in an overall reduction in project costs leading to greater viability. So, we will give the best quality product at the most competitive price along with reliable after-sales services. This will be our USP.

What is the company’s current scale of operations and who are its key clients in India?

Currently, Adani Solar is India’s first and largest vertically integrated solar company that offers services across the spectrum of PV manufacturing with 1.2 GW of capacity. The state-of-the-art manufacturing facility with multilevel infrastructure is optimised for scaling up to 3 GW of modules and cells under one roof. The company manufactures high efficiency multi, mono passivated emitter and rear cell (PERC) and bifacial modules with superior efficiency, better performance and enhanced reliability. The solar EPC business unit, within its first year of operation, commissioned projects of over 250 MW while over 400 MW is under execution.

Our notable clients in India include Singareni Collieries Company Limited, Energy Efficiency Services Limited and SECI. In the PV manufacturing business unit, India continues to be one of the most promising markets. We also have a presence in the US, as there is a significant demand for our products in North America. We are also gradually exploring newer avenues in Europe, Australia and the Far East.

  What have been Adani Solar’s key innovations in this space?

We are the first Indian solar manufacturer to be certified for 1,500 V system voltage and double glass mono, multi and bifacial modules, offering 30 years of warranty as against the industry standard of 25 years. We are also equipped to increase the efficiency of multi, mono and bifacial modules at the cell level. Our roadmap for the next 12-36 months is focused on the industry’s need for a low levellised cost of energy (LCOE).

At present, the highest capacity module is mono PERC of 375-380 Wp. It should be noted that we are the only manufacturer in India to produce high efficiency monofacial and bifacial modules. We are confident of improving these efficiencies and our objective is to achieve a module capacity of above 400 Wp in the next six to eight months.

What is your future outlook for solar module and cell manufacturing in India?

In the current scenario, solar modules are competitively priced. However, with the introduction of more advanced and efficient solar modules in the near future, there will be a notable reduction in the cost of ownership.

Also, the industry is seeing some interesting changes in the PERC, PERT, HJT and TopCon manufacturing areas, where multiple manufacturers are investing in new technologies. It is easy to implement new technologies provided the entire value chain supports wafer and technology availability. There are certain technologies that offer very high wattage, but do not support the LCOE benefits at current market conditions due to high input costs. Economies of scale should be about driving costs lower and we, at Adani Solar, are prepared and geared to achieve a low LCOE.

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