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New solar policy offers Rs 210 billion business opportunity

According to reports, the new solar energy policy unveiled by the Tamil Nadu Government appears to offer an Rs 21,000 crore -Rs 24000 crore business opportunity and the players in the field apparently are waiting for the Government Order to specify the contours of the new policy.

What might work to the advantage of the solar power producers was not only the government insisting on sourcing of certain minimum quantity of solar power by large industrial consumers but also the fact that it would far cheaper to produce compared to the conventional sources.

Speaking at a news conference here today, R.Chellappan, Managing Director, Swelect Energy Systems Limited (SWEES- formerly known as Numeric Power Systems Ltd), Chennai, said there were two kinds of technologies that were used by the solar power industry.

The thin film technology would cost about Rs 7 crore to Rs 7.5 crore per MW. But if the investors adopted silicon (poly or mono crystalline) technology, the cost might be in the range of Rs 7.5 crore to Rs 8 crore per MW. The advantage of the latter was that it required lesser space for the same capacity compared to thin film based solar technology.

He said the Tamil Nadu Government had unveiled the new solar energy policy and the industry was waiting for the GO to be out which would commit the consumers to the Solar Purchase Obligation (SPO), category-wise. Many companies have announced their intention to grab the business opportunity offered by the policy to become Independent Power Producers (IPPs), including his company.

Depending on the technology mix the investment required to achieve a generation of 3,000 MW of solar power by 2015 in the state could be in the range of Rs 21,000 crore to Rs 24,000 crore.

Citing the experience of Gujarat, he said that state was on the verge of reaching 1000 MW of solar power with 600 MW of it already commissioned. This was done in about two years.

He said SWEES was planning to come out with the largest solar power project in Tamil Nadu in Sivaganga District with an overall investment of Rs 85 crore- Rs 90 crore that would be funded through internal resources. The land for the project has been acquired and he expected the project to be completed by August next year.

This would be a single location, centralised, 10 MW solar installation completely grid-tied. The project would use poly crystalline panels and the cost would be nearly Rs 8.5 crore-Rs 9 crore per MW, making it the largest single location solar power project both in terms of generation capacity and investment incurred, in the state.

He put the cost of generation of solar power at about Rs 7.5 to Rs 9 per unit compared to captive (diesel) generation that was around Rs 15.50- Rs 17 per unit and from other sources like coal or atomic power which might be around Rs 10/unit. He expected the project to achieve break even in 6-7 years. The project would be funded from the balance sheet of the company and there was `no debt component’.

He said it would take many years for Tamil Nadu to `get away from the dark situation we are into now’ and it was necessary for every type of consumer to go for energy back up solutions. For households, there were even options to run, apart from a few lights, fans and TV, air conditioner for two hours and fridge to preserve milk and medicines using solar power.

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