"With more than 70% of India’s power coming from non-renewable sources, the pressure on coal, diesel and other energy sources is bound to go up phenomenally. Even if we ignore the immense impact on environment, the rising import bill is good enough reason for us to look for alternative and renewable energy sources, solar being one of them. While there are enough statistics to support solar energy, the most important reason would be the feasibility of producing it wherever there is abundant sunlight, which is, in India, everywhere."
Vineet Arya, Head (Marketing and Communications), Tata Power Solar shares his views with Sandeep Sharma about his company, core competencies, achievements, offerings in the solar energy sphere, solar lighting solutions for Rural India, challenges faced in providing offshore solar solutions and recommendation to solve power shortage problem in India. Edited Excerpts...
Could you tell us about your company, product and solutions offered and core competencies?
Tata Power Solar (TPS), a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Power, is India's leading provider of integrated solar solutions. The company was initially founded in 1989 as a joint venture between Tata Group and British Petroleum Solar (BP Solar). As part of the prestigious TATA group, we stand for quality, excellence and total commitment towards our work, and believe in nurturing long-term relationships with our 1000+ dealer net work. Our vision is to be the leading solar solutions provider in the country, delivering meaningful and sustainable results to our clients. We are committed to enabling solar everywhere and bringing the power of the sun to people in the most efficient and cost effective ways. We are betting big on our roof top and EPC business to generate strategic growth and sustained leadership. Our endeavor is to provide cleaner, greener energy solutions to meet India's growing energy deficit.
What are your activities and achievements so far in the renewable energy space?
Tata Power Solar is a pioneer in the solar energy space and over the last 23+ years, has shipped over 500 MW of
modules to Europe, Asia, Australia and the US. Over the past few years, the company has increased its focus on the domestic market, which has witnessed tremendous growth since the launch of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM).
The company has also been actively involved in providing EPC solutions to the grid-connected and off-grid market segments since the past 10 years. Some of the projects commissioned by the company in the EPC space include a 1 MW solar power plant for Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited, 3 MW solar power plant for Tata Power at Mulshi, 17 MW solar power plant in Gujarat among others.
In the last couple of years, TPS has commissioned 19 projects under the megawatt scale, which amounts to 70MW approximately. In 2011-12, Tata Power Solar has success fully commissioned about 60 MW projects in the EPC segment. TPS is also engaged in the manufacturing of off-grid solar applications like solar lighting and thermal products (solar water heaters), and providing energy solutions to the telecom sector.
How would you describe your mission to light Rural India through your solar lighting solutions?
As per a recent MNRE survey, over 400 million people in India have no access to electricity which is an important element of utility in modern society. Lack of electricity leads to lack of proper undisrupted lighting in rural India. TPS has a range of lighting solutions, most of which are customized to the needs of the consumer. Some of the regions that TPS has brought electricity to are remote villages in Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa.
Further, it has enabled power for irrigation in Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. TPS has also been instrumental in transforming hundreds of lives in the remote villages of Ladakh by providing 14,000 built-to-last solar lighting systems and installed 9 solar plants for various institutions in Leh.
Furthermore Tata Power Solar partnered with the Chhattisgarh Renewable Energy Development Authority (CREDA) with the motive of providing access to power, much needed for the development of the state. In the 23+ years of its existence, Tata Power solar has touched more than 17 million lives and continues to do so.
How many manufacturing units do you have in India and what’s your production capacity? Do you have any plans for expansion?
The Company currently operates world class facilities in Bangalore for the production of solar cells and modules that are known for their quality, high efficiency and durability. Tata Power Solar has 125 MW of module and 84 MW of active cell manufacturing capacity and additional 96 MW of cell capacity is available for rapid ramp in coming year.
Are you targeting any acquisition to make it big in the solar sphere?
Tata Power Solar is one of the largest solar solutions providers in the country. The primary focus of the company is to consolidate its EPC business and increasingly participate in the upliftment of the country by helping bridge the power deficit. While there are no specific plans of growing inorganically at this point of time, the company is open to opportunities if they are in line with its long-term objectives.
What kind of demand do you expect for your solar products in the current fiscal?
With increased awareness and impetus given by the government coupled with decrease of solar unit price due to technological advancements, the prospects of the solar industry looks extremely bright.
What’s your take on the need for R&D spend to come out with innovative products? How much do you spend on R&D in percentage terms?
We at Tata Power Solar stress heavily on R&D to continuously innovate new processes and solutions. We have grown to emerge as the largest solar company in India with products and services that provide customized end-to-end solutions. A lot of credit for this goes to our robust R&D team which focuses on roadblocks and helps us overcome hurdles that impede the product development.
Could you talk about the challenges faced for providing offshore solar solutions?
The major challenge faced in providing offshore solar solution is that the offshore platforms are unmanned and need to be remotely monitored. Hence, it is important for the solar solution thus provided, to be highly reliable, long lasting, well engineered and capable of operating in every challenging environment conditions.
Tata Power Solar successfully designed, manufactured, supplied, installed, and commissioned an offshore solar solution system for ONGC in the Mumbai Highfield area. The solar power generation system used on the ONGC wellhead offshore platforms powered telemetry, gas detection and navigational aid systems.
Our solar modules were specifically designed for use in hazardous locations with an explosion proof junction box, a battery bank, a nav-aid lantern and marine-grade structures with special coating for PV modules and fire-survival cables.
What’s your role and contribution so far in the Rooftop solar system project for ANERT? Are you working on similar project in any other state?
Tata Power Solar has partnered with ANERT to launch 10,000 solar rooftop power plants scheme to set up 10 MW capacity of power through installation of 10,000 off-grid solar systems across Kerala. This scheme will help reduce dependency on conventional grid electricity.
What’s your recommendation for solving the growing power shortage in India?
As per the Central Power Authority, the power deficit in India is as high as 12 GW in FY 2013. However, with per capita consumption being one of the lowest in the world and more than 30% India’s population without access to grid power, the real or latent deficit is much higher.
The ‘Indian Solar Energy Market Outlook 2012’ states that around 45% of Indian households, mainly rural, do not have access to electricity. Since most of the population lives in rural India, it is quite difficult and expensive to provide them electricity through the grid-connected solar systems.
With more than 70% of India’s power coming from non-renewable sources, the pressure on coal, diesel and other energy sources is bound to go up phenomenally. Even if we ignore the immense impact on environment, the rising import bill is good enough reason for us to look for alternative and renewable energy sources, solar being one of them. While there are enough statistics to support solar energy, the most important reason would be the feasibility of producing it wherever there is abundant sunlight, which is, in India, everywhere.