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‘Take my roof, give me solar power’ concept catching up in TN

According to reports, industries and commercial establishments in Tamil Nadu are letting out their lands or rooftops in return for cheaper solar power.

Various speakers and participants at a solar conference held here to unveil the Tamilnadu Energy Development Agency (TEDA)-sponsored ‘Renergy 2014’ event, stressed that the so-called ‘opex model’ is fast catching up in the State.

‘Renergy’ is an annual conference of renewable energy held by TEDA. The 2014 edition of Renergy will be put together by UBM India, a company that specialises in organising exhibition-cum-conference events.

“Most companies want to use capital in their core business and not in power,” noted Pashupathy Gopalan, who heads the India, Asia-Pacific and Africa operations of the American company, SunEdison.

SunEdison pioneered the concept in the country — it put up a 100 kW solar plant on the roof of Standard Chartered bank’s captive BPO office building in Chennaiin March 2012. SunEdison is now putting up a similar 160 kW rooftop project for the Murugappa group company, Tube Investments, also in Chennai.

Refex Energy, another company that builds solar plants for others, said it has orders for over 5 MW, where again, Refex would own the assets and sell only the electricity.

While many companies — notably, textile units that had a good run with exports due to rupee depreciation — are putting up solar plants with an eye on the tax-saving ‘accelerated depreciation’ benefit, several others just want electricity.

Thus two trends are running concurrently in the State — industries owning solar power plants and consuming the power themselves, and those that have others invest in solar plants and buy only the electricity.

Incidentally, both categories of solar companies bear in mind the imminence of the ‘solar purchase obligation’ mandated by the Tamil Nadu Government. The SPO has been challenged in courts, but regardless many industries in the State want to be “seen as compliant”.

Another Chennai-based company, ARC Power Consultants, marries industries that have land or large roofs and need electricity, with other profit-making companies that need to own solar plants for ‘accelerated depreciation’.

Gopalan stressed on the two fundamental requirements for the ‘opex model’. The first is, the buyer of the power should have credibility to honour a 20 or 25-year power purchase agreement.

Second, he should inspire the trust that he would not say one day, “who the hell are you, get out of my place.”

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