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ABB has been successfully investing in India for the last 60 years and has steadily expanded its manufacturing, engineering and R&D footprint

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In conversation with Mr. Pitamber Shivnani, President and Local Divisional Manager, Power Grids Division ABB India Ltd.

Let’s begin with a glimpse of your company’s presence and offerings in India?

We have a strong legacy in the solar power industry. Almost 50% of solar power generated in India passes through ABB equipment that is part of our cutting edge portfolio. We have a leading market position for solar invertors in the country and in September 2016 inaugurated a new solar inverter factory at Nelamangala in Bangalore to double local manufacturing capacity. This expansion followed earlier milestones when ABB became the first company in the country to double the solar inverter installed base to 2 GW within the short span of five months. 

So far, we’ve commissioned approximately 12GW of solar projects across the country, which is approximately 15% of India’s solar generation. Many of the projects are landmark ones such as the Canal Top solar plant in Gujarat, and the world’s largest solar power plant - a 648 MW plant - in Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu which was executed in just nine months. Our experience in executing and completing systems integration of large projects with the highest level of safety and in very short timelines is what differentiates us. We have also contributed technology and expertise to the first solar powered airport in Kochi, and the world’s largest single rooftop solar power plant for an educational institution in Punjab. In Rajasthan and West Bengal, we’ve installed solar powered battery storage providing access to electricity in 1,500 villages. Another innovation specific to India is the solar pump drive that is used by Indian farmers and also in water supply and fisheries. 

ABB has been successfully investing in India for the last 60 years and has steadily expanded its manufacturing, engineering and R&D footprint. Our portfolio is diverse; however for solar, we offer a comprehensive portfolio of products, systems, solutions and services that optimize the performance, reliability and return on investment of any solar installation – from residential rooftops to commercial and industrial applications and utility-gigawatt level power plants.  Our solar offering includes inverters, switchgear from the lowest to highest voltage levels, monitoring and control systems, grid connection, stabilization and integration products, as well as complete electrical balance of plant solutions. We also offer a wide range of support and maintenance services, remote operations and diagnostics that help solar installations deliver optimal performance. 

What have been some of the recent developments at your organization?  

ABB is energized and focused to lead the energy revolution taking place with the changing dynamics of renewables.  One of the major influences on the power grid today is the rapid growth of renewable energy into the mix. Solar is undeniably the way forward for the country and this commitment to invest in clean energy is seen across the industry. As a leading technology provider, we are focused on innovating for the market needs, through products, systems and software. We also have some of the country’s leading experts in our consulting team to carry out various system studies, and recommend technical solutions. 

Relying on decades of experience, we have products and solutions which offer customers a range of options in the era of clean energy, focusing on the current needs – distributed generation, power quality and stability, renewable integration, and high voltage transmission. Across all these areas we also apply our IoT solutions to create a smarter grid. 

In distributed generation for example, ABB’s PowerStore plug and play microgrid is an innovation driven from India. It is a plug and play solution that consolidates all the elements of a microgrid into a single container. This installation will help ensure power supply resilience, power quality, sustainability and cost-effectiveness. It is also flexible and customizable according to the application – whether offgrid for villages or grid connected for industry. We’re currently implementing the PowerStore microgrid in several places in India, and the product is also exported from India to several parts of the world. ABB will be installing a microgrid at our own Vadodara facility later this year.

Focusing on power quality and stability, solutions such as FACTS (Flexible Alternating Current Transmission Systems) and STATCOM help to improve the quality of power on existing installations. There’s also state of the art control systems such as SCADA and Symphony Plus which offer unified control systems across solar plants and microgrids for effective power management. ABB’s invertor technology is also constantly being upgraded and improve reliability, and efficiency. Adding to that, plant management solutions, environmental management, software tools and lifetime support, are also part of the portfolio. 

Strengthening transmission is important for the success of renewable energy and our pioneering HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) technology is the most environmentally friendly way of transmitting large amounts of electric power over long distances because it ensures that power is transmitted with minimal losses and without compromising reliability. Currently, two UHVDC links in India - the North-East Agra and the Raighar-Pugalur links will use this technology to transmit both conventional and renewable energy across the country.

We’re also seeing customers embrace a connected world and our ABB Ability™ portfolio of connected and software-enabled solutions offers insights at every level, from device, to system, to enterprise, to cloud. The data we provide is aggregated, secure and can be integrated with industry data and when processed using data big data and predictive analytics drives performance and productivity improvements. If fact, all that the offerings I’ve already mentioned have an IoT component to them.  

Tell us a bit about the recent technology advancements in your sector?

The world has acknowledged the impact of climate change and the immense role that clean energy will play in this global shift. Advancements in technology have resulted in lithium-ion batteries and solar panels costing less making it gradually economically viable for adoption at a large scale. However, with integrating renewables, the focus will lie in how best to integrate, forecast and schedule power generation to ensure that the grid remains reliable and stable. We truly believe that solar technology will be a leading sustainable energy source for distributed power generation and will drive growth in mature and developing economies. 

What are your growth plans for the Indian market?What are the milestones you wish to achieve by the end of this fiscal?

The government aims to add 175GW of renewable energy to the grid by 2022 – of which 100GW will come from solar power and I’m very proud that our pioneering solutions are helping India bring clean power to millions of people. We’ve seen some important milestones already this year. Besides the Raighar-Pugalur link, we are implementing India’s first greenfield digital substation at Technopark in Kerala. This will be the largest Information Technology (IT) park in India and will need reliable, round the clock power so that 350 companies employing more than 50,000 people can work without any power outages. 

We remain focused in our strengths - HVDC to efficiently deliver and integrate renewable energy into the grid, end to end EBOP solutions for solar power plants, and technologies such as microgrids and power management solutions that will help integrate intermittent renewables. 

What have been the latest trends in demand for your products & services in India?Where do you see the next demand growth coming from?

We are definitely witnessing interest in digitalization initiatives and pilots from our customers. Going forward several of our products will have a software component supported by our recently launched industry leading portfolio of digital solutions and services called ABB AbilityTM.  ABB AbilityTM provides tailored digital solutions and products for the differing needs of utility providers across power generation, transmission and distribution. From advanced diagnostics that prevent unplanned downtime to the control of individual coal-fired boilers, our industry-leading digital capabilities rely on decades of experience with utilities. From our solutions portfolio, topics of interest are virtual power plants, remote service, collaborative operations, and digital substations with lifecycle and distributed energy resource management.

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