India has high potential for commercial rooftop Solar PV : Mr. Pashupathy Gopalan

Pashupathy Shankar Gopalan is the Managing Director, of MEMC’s and SunEdison’s South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa operations.

Pashu’s experience and expertise includes various operating roles such as Automotive and Consumer Imaging, MA based SMaL Camera. Pashu is responsible for building SunEdison’s solar energy services business in India and its neighboring countries. He had held several engineering positions in Process Engineering, Fab Manufacturing, and Technology DevelopmentPrior to SunEdison, Pashu was with Cypress Semiconductor as their Vice President for Strategic Marketing and Corporate Business Development. He was responsible for various initiatives covering Global Market Strategy, New Business Creation, Cypress venture Fund, Mergers and Acquisitions, Corporate Strategy and Platform Marketing of Cypress’s Products.

Pashu holds a B.Tech in Metallurgical Engineering from IT-BHU, M.S in Materials Science and Engineering from Arizona State University, and an MBA from Stanford University

1.In India the competitive biddings has brought down the cost of solar to historically low level. Is the price offered like INR 7 per unit viable? What are the IRR such low rates can offer to investors?

Competitive bidding is a great means to enable price discovery. It has definitely forced developers in India to think creatively about business models and find innovative ways to drive down cost. We greatly applaud the thinking of the policymakers of the JNNSM program for successfully promoting the deployment of solar in India on large scale by introducing these models.

Different developers have different expectations around financial returns and their own sources of securing finance and therefore, low prices like INR 7/ unit which may give sub-10% IRRs even with accelerated depreciation benefits might be viable as per the business requirements of some developers.

 

2.Domestic Content Requirement (DCR) under NSM and competition from low cost module from China. Which is the bigger threat?

The way we operate in the solar industry is that we try to give solutions rather than make single products. We are installing large utility scale projects around the world from India, Thailand, South Africa, Europe, Canada and United States. Due to our global nature of module manufacturing operations, we are immune to any competition and DCR related issues. On the manufacturing side, we try to be a technology innovator rather than trying to just scale up. Quality is of foremost importance to us as the plants we deploy today have to function well for next 25-30 years. As long as those standards are met, we are sure the solar industry is bound to be on a fast growth path and instances like DCR and Chinese competition will not hamper our business growth.

We appreciate the thought behind Domestic Content Requirement as the solar sector’s growth in India has to go hand-in-hand with the creation of jobs and building of local expertise. For any country, it is important to develop its resource pool and technical capabilities in a fast growing industry like solar.

 

3.With highest power tariff, commercial consumer market has vast potential for solar rooftop installations in India. What are the main challenges to tap this market? 

Yes, commercial consumer market definitely has a vast potential for solar rooftop installations in India. As pioneers in making commercial rooftop Solar PV viable, affordable and easily available in other countries in the world, we are very excited by the opportunities to tap this potential in Indian market. With over 300 sunny days in most areas, India is a great market for solar deployment.

We offer rooftop solutions in two models – system sale and energy sale. The common challenges in both models are lack of clear decision making from customers in multi-tenant buildings, absence of net-metering to avail energy savings and non-availability of REC benefits for captive solar solutions or for evacuation at LT level.

Due to limited shadow-free rooftop space and more power requirements, off-site captive power plants are also being developed from where power can be wheeled in for consumption. The transmission and wheeling charges should be favorable for economics to work out right for this model.

 

4.What kind of policy reforms you think will be beneficial for commercial rooftop market. 

Rooftop Solar PV has a potential to grow up to 10 GW in India if the supporting ecosystem is developed well. Introduction of initiatives like RECs for off-grid markets and net metering can greatly help in developing affordable offerings which would result in substantial savings for the customers. It’ll also ensure energy security and help in effectively battling the energy outage issues. Time-of-day pricing is another reform that will help make solar a lucrative option for meeting the peak demands. Tax reforms which would enable leasing of roof-top space will also help the market.

RPOs for commercial rooftops, reforms like mandatory roof-top area harvesting for solar power for 1 – 2% of building’s consumption will be beneficial in solar power market development.

 

5.Poly-Crystalline Vs Thin Film, an over asked question for Indian market. However, our question is what kind of BOS suits best to Indian conditions, which vary from dry-dusty to hot humid.

Quality of the systems deployed is very important as the modules come with a warranty of 25 years but the rest of BOS should be robust enough to support the plant and perform well for over two decades.

Most of the inverters and other components are suitable for all Indian climatic conditions, while the structures vary depending on soil conditions, wind speed and exposed environmental conditions. The developer has to conduct a thorough technical assessment for proper selection of components for every single site. The experience and know-how of the developer is the key to choose the best BOS technology for each location which is not only very reliable but also cost competitive.

 

6.Grid stability is a very critical issue in India. What measures can be taken to make solar plants more dependable.

Measures like distributing solar installations across the state evenly and capping the maximum capacity of solar power installed per sq. km. will help insulate the grid in sharp drops in power generation because of localized cloud cover. These will help make the Grid stable and ensure that solar power is a dependable energy source.

 

7.Specific future plans of SunEdison to tap Indian Solar market.

We are extremely excited with the way solar industry has grown in India. In over two years, we have developed more than 77 MW of solar power in states like Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. We have also built innovative projects like the 1MW power plant suspended over the Narmada Canal reducing evaporation of precious drinking water while producing clean energy. With the successful pilot implementation in Meerwada village, we have launched the ‘Eradication of Darkness’ program that aims to bring electricity to un-electrified villages. Recently SunEdison also commissioned a 100kW rooftop solar plant each at Standard Chartered Bank, Chennai and at Airtel, Lucknow with unique business models. SunEdison is also one of the winners of the nation’s first roof-top solar program (2.5MW) in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. For our initiatives, we have been recognized as the ‘Best Solar Power Producer in India’ by Independent Power Producers Association in India (IPPAI).

SunEdison has a strong commitment towards Indian solar market and are continuously striving hard to pioneer innovative affordable solutions and strengthen our leadership position in India. We see a great potential in deployment of distributed solar, as solar power is available at or lower grid rates at certain parts in the country today. With policies having shown the way for deployment of utility scale solar, we are extremely encouraged by interest shown by companies and investors in the development of solar farms for wheeling in power for captive consumption or for sale to third parties.

We are working towards creating large scale farms of a total of 50 MW capacities in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu to begin with. With our relentless R&D efforts and business model innovation, SunEdison is in a position to provide solar energy at less than 7/ unit for rooftop installations today. Our plan ahead is to make rooftop solar widespread and within the reach of common man.

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shivanshtyagi

Mechanical engineer with experience in Power Plant maintenance , operation and auditing for ISI marked products. MBA in Power Management from National Power Training Institute, Faridabad. Working as Consultant for Bridge to India Pvt. Ltd. Expertise in: 1) Power sector regulations 2) Financial Modelling 3) Project Development solar PV plants 4) Strategic consulting 5) Report writing

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