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Solar equipment majors eye India as manufacturing hub

According to reports, with the prospect of a slowdown in the renewable power sector in their home markets, US and European solar power equipment manufacturers are betting big on Indian demand. The global renewable energy majors are not only increasing their presence in the market by participating in equipment-supply tenders but also looking at converting India into a manufacturing hub.

US-based First Solar, a global leader in the segment, has identified India’s solar power development programme as a key driver for its investment in the equipment manufacturing capacity expansion projects. Similarly, Germany’s Schott plans to tap the Indian market by expanding its facility for solar glasses at Vadodara. Another German company, REFUsol, a leading supplier of inverters for solar power plants, expects to triple its business by the end of this year, while Intertek, a London-based provider of safety and quality solutions for renewable power equipment, is bullish on the Indian solar market.

In addition, many tie-ups are being worked out between Indian and overseas companies. India’s Vikram Solar has partnered Spanish company Proener to take up engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts of large solar power projects. Gujarat-based Harsha Engineers has entered into a pact with Germany-based Abakus to work as integrator for solar PV applications. “Technology joint ventures are happening because there is a vacuum in the market, especially in high-end products,” said Shubranshu Patnaik, senior director (energy & resources consulting), Deloitte India.

Indian manufacturing in the solar power arena has developed around low-end products in balance of plant (auxiliary equipment) space, inverters and a basic solar power equipment. Overseas players are eyeing the wide space that needs to be filled to realise the goal of 20,000 mw grid-connected solar power generation capacity by 2022 under the Jawharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) programme.

First Solar has already shipped equipment for over 200 mw capacity addition in India this year and has contracts in hand to supply another 250 mw equipment. It has a manufacturing capacity for 1,500 mw a year, which is being expanded to 2,300 mw. The new capacity is expected to be operational by the end of 2011.

REFUsol, on the other hand, has supplied inverters for solar projects of 50 mw in India and is now setting up its equipment manufacturing facility in Pune, which is expected to start production by early next year. The company is also setting up an R&D centre that will develop off-grid solar solutions for the Indian market. “The R&D centre will develop products for local applications. Once we have competence, we will start exports,” REFUsol MD & COO Thomas Wittek told FE.

“We are expecting strong growth in business opportunities in India,” sais Saranpal Sunny Rai, regional vice-president (renewables), Intertek.

One comment

  1. Interesting.
    i hope that while they build their huge manufacturing facilities, they also look at what i call “Distributed manufacturing processes” and actually benefit some community enterprises across the country.

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