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Tata BP Solar to expand in Indian domestic market

According to reports, Tata BP Solar is turning its attention to the domestic market, encouraged by India’s solar mission and because of slowing exports.

The Bangalore-based company earned about 70% of its revenue of Rs. 1,000 crore in 2010-11 by way of exports of solar photovoltaic panels, which convert light to electricity.

“This year (2011-12), we expect 50% of our business to come from setting up grid connected projects in India, through the JNNSM or the state solar schemes,” said chief executive K. Subramanya.

JNNSM, or the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, is India’s ambitious aim to increase the production of solar energy in the country to 1,000MW in 2013 and 20,000MW by 2022 from around 45MW now.

Tata BP Solar has been making solar-based lights for about two decades and exporting a majority of its panels.

Exports have been declining in part because of lower demand from Europe since January, but Subramanya attributes the shift in focus mainly to the company’s strategy to capitalize on domestic government projects.

“When we started the company in 1991, renewable energy was not so popular and did not have a ready market (in India). We created the market for solar lighting in rural homes and photovoltaic energy in industrial units,” he said.

Tata BP Solar, a 51-49 joint venture between Madrid-headquartered BP Solar and Tata Power Co. Ltd, has so far provided electricity connections to 100,000 homes in Uttar Pradesh and is executing similar projects in Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand.

Each of these homes bear a solar panel of 40-75 watts, on an average, that can power two-four lights, a television and a fan.

“We enable these homes to fund these projects by tying up with rural banks which provide them loans,” Subramanya said.

The company has also executed street light projects for cities. Its photovoltaic panel assembling unit in Banglaore has a capacity for 125MW a year but has so far only used about 70-75MW in any given year.

While the company expects production to remain the same in 2011-12, it sees volumes driven up over the years by the MW-sized installations that grid-connected projects from the national solar mission and state schemes will require.

“Home lighting projects are typically watt-sized, and rooftop installations even on industrial units range between 4-10MW only,” Subramanya said.

Tata BP Solar has bagged orders for 20MW in the first phase of the national solar mission and has orders for about 35MW of panels under state schemes.

“We do not bid for these projects ourselves as we are not developers; the developers, who win bids, select us for our pricing, quality and reliability,” Subramanya said.

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