In Conversation With Mr. Pradeep Chauhan, Country Manager-Indian Subcontinent, Solarpack Corporacion Tecnologica, SA

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Mr. Pradeep Chauhan, Country Manager-Indian Subcontinent, Solarpack Corporacion Tecnologica, SA gives his perspective on India’s manufacturing potential and much more…

“Our aim is to achieve excellence in all aspects of the Solar Business activities from development, design, engineering, construction to management of assets”

Till Date Solarpack has commissioned 104 MWp in six sites in India. What are the future plans in India?

We, Solarpack Corporacion Tecnologica, SA is having focus on building quality assets globally, our presence in India at present are in two states 1. Telangana with 104MWp of Solar Assets at six locations and 2. Karnataka with 135MWp at five locations of grid connected utility scale Solar plants under development & different stages of construction. Further, Indian Power Sector has vast potential of Renewable Energy supply to Commercial & Industrial (C&I) segment under group captive and open access power sale, we have been evaluating opportunities in Utility market and C&I customers. In addition, we have identified opportunities for 450MW of projects in solar rich states in India, where we shall be participating in auctions and bi-lateral transactions. We also are keen to explore new technology areas into Solar with battery storage and floating solar systems. 

In my opinion, the next set of growth shall be coming in utility scale market from Battery Storage, as the Lithium Ion battery cost is expected to reduce quite fast due to the scale of deployment similar to PV prices. For India, the current PV deployment of 35GW doesn’t impose any threat to grid stability but the signs of grid stability have already been visible which is evident from the grid curtailments happening in many states in recent past. Hence, as we move closer to the 100GW target, there will be a higher focus on delivering power as per the requirement of the grid, which shall be the basis for programme having storage as part of Solar or wind PPA’s. 


Solarpack has an integrated solar portfolio in the industry, how has the experience of each portfolio help the other portfolio? 

We are a multinational company specialized in the development, financing, construction, operation and management of utility scale solar photovoltaic power plants with presence in fast-growing markets in Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Since 2005, we have been developing solar PV assets for customers as well as IPP, having all expertise as Integrated in-house portfolio helps us deliver sustainable high-quality projects for any other customer and our own development with consistency in the design & build quality. Our aim is to achieve excellence in all aspects of the Solar Business activities from development, design, engineering, construction to management of assets. As our business operations are spread over Asia, Africa, Europe, LATAM & USA, we always work with various functions within the group for optimising resources and update about new technological innovations happening in the industry. 

 What according to you is the biggest strength of your company in the solar industry and how do you plan to leverage this strength in the Indian Solar Sector. 

We always focus on people and quality standards, Solarpack team comprises of Best of the Industry professionals working with us, who possess vast experience in international markets spread over Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia and Africa. Our team members are highly self-motivated professionals, keeps striving for excellence, getting versed with technological changes, exploring new markets, adapting to change in quality parameter/standards. 

With our experience in India so far, we have been building projects with third party EPC services, going forward, our developments will utilise more in-house capabilities of the global expertise that Solarpack group possess. Solarpack continues to be a preferred EPC service provider in Spain & other LATAM market and we would like to gain from the benefit of cross fertilisation of those strengths in India for our investments. 

We are very much a seamlessly connected effective workforce, which functions as a global unit and assists in all business functions for Indian activities on real time basis. While we have dedicated workforce for Indian business activities spread over New Delhi, Karnataka & Telangana, yet still our global experienced team participates quite actively in various areas of our Indian efforts to help us maintain global standards Solarpack intends to maintain. 

While people are any company’s biggest strength, process orientation plays a very big role in tapping the potential and conversion into results. We, Solarpack has clearly defined processes for channelizing the people energy/potential to achieve common corporate objectives.  


How different is Indian PV module market from the International market? 

International PV modules manufacturing in India has been quite sluggish compared to the demand for domestic consumption and exports, while country has approx. 10GW of Solar modules manufacturing capacity, yet effective Tier-1 & 2 level producers collectively can produce about 3-4GW annually against the 8-9GW consumption. Pricing is another large factor, which makes Chinees manufactured modules favourable to buyers. 

India has made attempts to increase domestic production by offering PPA linked to manufacturing capacity of 10GW, which remains a non-starter despite various incentive and modification to the scheme. 

Looking at current pace of installations and manufacturing developments, India still would have to remain mostly dependent on the imports of solar cells & modules from China & Malaysia. Unfortunately, imposition of Safeguard Duty on Solar cells & modules imports from these two countries hasn’t been able to improve manufacturing industry situation in last 2years. 

Some of the more developed international markets have been quite cautious on price sensitivity Vs quality of modules, whereas Indian market is more price sensitive due to reverse auction tariff pressures for achieving cheapest electricity producing country. 

In my opinion, India has the potential to become the 2nd largest producer of solar modules considering pipeline towards the next decade of domestic consumption and exports to developing countries eg. Africa & MENA regions with higher acceptability of Indian produced goods. 

What is your outlook for the Indian market by 2020? What have been some of your key learning from Indian projects so far? 

I am quite optimistic about the growth of Indian Solar Industry by 2020, country shall achieve a pipeline of 100GW and 50GW of installed capacity, yet there are show spoilers like safeguard duty, financial market liquidity crunch, cancellation of auction programmes, re-negotiation of PPA’s by some of the states. 

While there are large auctions being offered ranging from 1 to 3GW in recent times, which shall help in accelerating the growth, yet there are challenges eg. availability of solar parks has reduced which generally offer plug & play approach for large scale fast development, difficulty in Inter State Transmission System (ISTS) connectivity-based project not being able to find approvals on time. 

In our experience, few of the factors makes Solar Assets exposed to risk, which varies from state to state or agency like payment security mechanism though L/C not being implemented even though the PPA obligation of purchaser mandates to establish L/C one month before project achieving COD, grid curtailment, non recognition of late payment surcharges as part of monthly payments by utilities. These are the learning that shall help us in selecting our future participation for further investments.  


What has been your company’s role in enhancing technology knowledge sharing between India and Spain?

Spain market has been more of consumers market for solar system related products, yet the experience in technical design & engineering of the overall solar farms adopted by Spain has been quite modest yet practical, that experience helps us improve the overall efficiency of the solar farms in India for maintaining higher uptime and achieve better LCOE. 

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