Daily Archives: June 2, 2011

Solar power prospects brighten

Research into new materials and structures is under way. Innovative technologies are being tried out. But it has to result in large-scale manufacturing applications. DR. MADHUSUDAN V ATRE, PRESIDENT AND M.D., APPLIED MATERIALS, INDIA

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (NSM) and its guidelines have created significant excitement in the industry with the announcement of new projects, setting up of assembly units and States vying with one another to offer incentives. With critical mass coming in, several large players are looking at backward integration, possibly manufacture of wafers.

Dr. Madhusudan V Atre, President and Managing Director, Applied Materials, India that is among the top suppliers of equipment and technology for solar industry and semiconductor segments, provides insights into the way forward.

Applied Materials and IIT-Bombay have joined to set up National Centre for PV Research and Education and a Clean Lab to work on new materials. Dr. Atre, who has been appointed a member of the advisory committee to drive the sector’s growth, touches upon prospects and challenges in an interview to Business Line. Excerpts from the interview:

What is happening in the solar industry? How do you perceive some of the changes and challenges?

A lot of developments have taken place since the Solar Mission. Various projects have been finalised. On the photo-voltaic side, projects ranging from 1MW to 5MW and on the solar thermo lighting, 50 MW to 70 MW have been finalised.

Many projects approved under the NSM have achieved financial closure and completed land acquisitions.

Apparently things are moving. From the Government’s perspective, it must be reasonably satisfying.

Apart from solar cell manufacturing and utilities, backward integration into wafering and polysilicon is also under way. All this will lead to the creation of a very vibrant solar ecosystem in India.

There have been developments at the Central and State Governments. Gujarat continues to drive a lot of solar-related projects.

What about the semiconductor business?

The Government wants to pitch in $5 billion on setting up infrastructure. The modifications in the Semiconductor policy in 2007 will be reviewed. Many changes are proposed in the policy. It is good the Government is thinking seriously about fabs.

That would be good from a manufacturing perspective but depends upon the local market. Areas of healthcare, automotive, and industries will need them.

These are big guzzlers of semiconductor chips. The changes recommended in the policy can probably make it a little more practical with the perspective of helping set up a fab.

Many companies are getting into an implementation mode. Some of them are raising finances and setting up units, such as Lanco and Moser Baer. What stage are they in capabilities?

Many have attained financial closure and acquired land, approved either by the State or Central Government and started their projects. The manufacturing technology is not a widely prevalent expertise. They have to depend on established technology and Applied Materials is one of the players.

Besides just the cell and module manufacturing which is usually thought of in the solar arena, some want to go a few steps aheadin terms of either manufacturing polysilicon itself or taking polysilicon blocks and making wafers out of them. Till now wafers needed for the crystalline silicon solar cell manufacturing are imported. Some are considering why not bring the silicon and do wafering.

Why should we bring the silicon and do the wafering , why not manufacture the polysilicon here is another line of thinking.

If you look at the chain which essentially comprises silicon, wafers, cells and various utilities, there are players who are now looking across the chain, and not just at a cell or a module. That is important.Through vertical integration, you can bring down costs. If you import a wafer, you are not only paying the guy from whom you are buying the wafer for his manufacturing cost but you are also paying for imports, logistics and transport. Internally, there is an inherent nailing down of costs.

This will be a domain only for serious players with deep financial resources. Backward integration brings about a cost and investment escalation. In the long run, serious and non serious players will get segregated.

Two years ago we were talking of Rs 19 crore for 1MW of installation; now they are saying Rs 15 crore and some of them a little lower than that. What is your assessment of ground reality?

They are talking of Rs 15 crore per MW, the figure has been arrived at after extensive study and with industry inputs. The cost will go down as a function of time, technology escalation, efficiency escalation. That is why now the tariff stands at Rs 12 per kilo-watt. That will decrease year on year as the technology goes up and cost goes down.

Do you see some new technology challenging usage of solar devices? What is your assessment from a research perspective?

Huge amount of research on technologies and devices is under way into new materials and structures.

Some are doing the corrugation of a solar cell on a certain dimension to capture more sunlight, so as to increase the efficiency. Innovative technologies are being tried. But it has to result in large-scale manufacturing applications. R&D to manufacturing process is a significant step.

For instance, flexible solar cell is something that can be used to wrap around objects. This will increase the mobility of solar units. Many new technologies and applications can come up. At the end of the day, it depends on how much of it can be scaled up in terms of size, manufacturing and scaling down of the cost.

We are talking about large installations, what about small units?

Power plant utilities are as important as standalone distributed solar applications. The policy lays a lot of effort on rooftop, lighting applications and other commercial applications.

The higher the utility, the cost and investment is that much more. There is a lot of focus on this by distributors and small scale plants.

The Solar Mission had taken out a directive that out of the 1 Gigawatt generated 100MW has to be diverted towards roof-top applications.

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Solar grows 40% over 2010: E&Y renewable country rankings

Ernst & Young released its latest Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Indices, which rank global renewable energy markets by investment strategies/infrastructures. The indices are quarterly.

The US’s strong solar adoption has it in second place, behind only China, according to the report, China remains on top due to offshore wind, and an aggressive five year RFP that specs 11.3% of energy from renewable sources by 2015. In solar indices, the US takes top honors, followed by India then China.

Many top-20 countries suffered from declining incentives and capital. Japan’s nuclear crisis threw the country’s energy environment into turmoil, and it dropped three places in the rankings.

Climbing on strong solar and wind power adoption, Morocoo and Taiwan moved up in the ranks, as did India.

Solar grew 40% since May 2010, thanks to cost and production drops. It proved more stable than wind this quarter. Gil Forer, global cleantech leader at Ernst & Young, points out:”It is important to overcome the misconception that renewable energy is too expensive, as we continue to see reduction in cost due to improvements in production and supply chain efficiencies as well as in technology.”

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GMR to raise Rs 400 cr debt for solar power

GMR Group

Image via Wikipedia

Bangalore-based infrastructure company GMR Infrastructure is close to raising around Rs 400 crore of debt to finance its upcoming solar project in Gujarat. Sources in the know said that the company is in talks with IDBI Bank to close the deal in the near future.

Earlier, the infrastructure firm received approval from the Gujarat government to set up a 25 Mw solar power project in the state, using photovoltaic technology for this project which will cost around Rs 500 crore. In addition to kickstarting its presence in this sector in Gujarat, GMR is also in talks with the Rajasthan government for another project. “Rajastan has come up with an encouraging solar power policy and we will bid for the new projects in the state, “ a top company official said.

Presently, GMR has three completed energy projects namely barge-mounted power plant at Kakinada, 200 Mw power plant in Chennai and Vemagiri plant in Andhra Pradesh. Projects of GMR Infra, which are under various phases of their implementation, are GMR Orissa power project, Talong power project, Bajoli project, Chhattisgarh project, Upper Karnali hydro-power project, Upper Marsyangadi project among others.

The company has a power generation capacity of 808 Mw by the end of December, 2010, and has 11 projects with a total capacity of 8,448 Mw in its portfolio. Of the projects, 4,138 Mw is under construction and 4,130 Mw is under development.

As per company officials, it is expected to add another 1,800 Mw of power in the present financial year to its present capacity. They also said that GMR was aggressively looking at increasing its solar power capacity in the future.

The energy vertical of the company has posted a marginal six per cent rise in its net profit to Rs 249 crore in FY11. However, its net declined around 70 per cent to Rs 37 crore during fourth quarter owing to deferred tax liability of around Rs 74 crore that had been accounted in this period.

GMR posted a loss of Rs 929.64 crore in the last financial year as compared with a profit of Rs 158.4 crore in the corresponding period previous year.

Revenue rose by 26 per cent to Rs 5,773.8 crore during this period. Meantime, the company has posted a 14 per cent increase in its operating profit to Rs 1,555.5 crore by end of March, 2011.

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Astonfield, T-Solar Partner for Solar Projects in India

US-based Astonfield Renewable Resources today announced that it has entered into a strategic partnership with Grupo T-Solar Global S.A., a Spanish-based solar power producer with an installed generation capacity of 168 megawatts (MW) in Spain and Italy, as well as a large pipeline in Southern Europe, Latin America and the US. The partnership has been initiated with Astonfield’s 5MW solar PV project in Osiyan Rajasthan, India, which is expected to be the first in a long-term strategic collaboration between Astonfield and T-Solar.

Astonfield will deploy T-Solar’s latest generation 5.7 square metre (m2), hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H), thin-film modules in Osiyan Rajasthan. This project will be one of the first utility-scale solar power plants commissioned under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) and is expected to be commissioned by October 2011. Construction on the Osiyan Rajasthan project has begun and, once operational, it is expected to generate at least 8500 megawatt hours (MWh) per year, enough to power the equivalent of more than 13,000 Indian households.

With T-Solar’s strategic investment and project debt financing in place from leading Indian banking institutions, such as the State Bank of India and the Export-Import Bank of India, Astonfield has confirmed that site construction is well under way and the Osiyan Rajasthan project is set for on-time commissioning. Schneider Electric, an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) provider based in France, has been retained as the project’s (EPC) manager.

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A Solar Handbag That Charges Devices

DIFFUS, the Danish design studio has launched a solar purse that enables people to charge electronic devices while on the go.

The chic Solar Handbag features 100 small silicon solar cells that are seamlessly woven into its conductive embroidery. The solar cells on the bag’s surface collect sunlight & generate 2 watts of energy that’s stored on a lithium-ion battery.

The solar power is used not just to charge electronic  devices, but also to activate optical fibers located inside of this hand bag.

The optical fibers come on automatically when you open the bag, rendering it easy to search things inside the handbag.

The luxury solar handbag is to retail soon.

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