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First Solar chief hints at manufacturing in India

According to reports, Jim Hughes, Chief Executive of First Solar, the American photovoltaic cells and modules manufacturer, has hinted that the company might look at manufacturing in India — though not immediately.

Hughes was responding to a question in a recent earnings conference call with analysts on the point of whether local manufacturing rules in India was a risk for First Solar.

“Ultimately, if the kind of visible demand that we expect develops in that market, that is likely a market where we would look to put manufacturing in place,” he said.

Hughes sees a big opportunity for First Solar in the private sector projects, (where, the electricity produced would be sold directly to bulk consumers at agreed prices, as opposed to government-sponsored projects that have an element of subsidy.)

“There is certainly some nationalistic sentiment,” he said, adding that it was “not a risk that we spend a lot of time worrying about.” He explained that even if local manufacture rules were to come up — at present, they don’t apply to thin-film based modules, such as those produced by First Solar — they would come up only in public sector programmes like the National Solar Mission.

“We actually believe the private self-generation market is the source of great deal of the opportunity, and you are not going to face those types of local content issues,” he said.

Pointing out that such opportunities translate into demand, Hughes said that when there is sufficient visible demand First Solar might look at manufacturing in India. “At that point, any such policies (mandating local manufacture) would actually be an advantage, not a disadvantage,” he said.

He, however, added that First Solar does not support such policies as it believes that “an open market place is in everybody’s best interest.”

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