SolarQuarter had an exclusive conversation with Mr. Darshan N Shah, President – Sales & Marketing, Hitachi Hi-REL and got great insights into the company’s recent business developments. He spoke about the USPs of Hitachi’s grid-tied inverters along with inverter capacity the company has supplied till now and their future targets. He also gave us insights into their newly developed Solar Central Inverter and their high-level R&D focus.
1. Please tell us how has the business been this year for your company? Any major developments?
A very pertinent question to begin with. As we know the whole world is experiencing the most unprecedented times of this era & almost every business across the globe is significantly affected due to disruption in their operation caused by widespread of contagious Coronavirus disease. On the brighter side, India as a country has been dealing very well with the situation both in terms of timely evasive actions to restrict the widespread of the virus & also in terms of facilitating the businesses to improve operation continuity to produce in turn the improved results qtr on qtr. It is my pleasure to share with you that We as Hitachi Hirel are also truly in synch with the country & have produced good results in terms of both top-line as well as bottom-line in last year as well as in this financial year, till now. Key factors besides our success are our recognition as one of the pioneers in the power electronics domain with an operational overall experience of almost 4 decades, our brand Hitachi which as the group is amongst Global fortune 500 companies & our diversified product range in terms of industrial UPS, IT & Infra UPS, medium & low voltage variable frequency drives, grid-tied solar inverters, air compressors and railway inverters which helps us to remain present with diversified business segments & ensure the business sustainability. In this financial year, we had major breakthrough in terms of acquiring new customers across our product segments & which has really helped us to consolidate our market share in product groups like Variable frequency drives, industrial UPS & also in Solar.
2. What are some of the main highlights and USPs of your grid-tied solar inverters?
The solar inverter is one of the extremely important components in a solar power plant that convert the DC power obtained from the Array of PV panels into AC power to be fed to the grid for onward transmission. These inverters should also essentially ensure that the maximum possible power is being fed to the grid at any given time & for that, it is important to accurately track the maximum Powerpoint as being generated by the array of PV panels & efficiently invert the same to AC power. This is where the Hitachi Solar inverters score over the competition with the help of technology which we inherited from our principle in Japan which offers a very wide MPPT range. This technology also offers the other USPs Like output current harmonics less than 3%, high-efficiency levels above 98%, Compatibility to a wider ambient temperature range of -25 degrees to + 60degree Celsius & many more. Our wider product basket both for Central Inverters as well as for String Inverters is also one of our USPs. We have Central Inverters which range from 250 kW to 2.5 MW and String Inverters which range from 1.1 kW to 255 kW. Another important factor from the perspective of the customer is the uptime of the inverter & with the Quality & reliability of our product supported by strong after-sales service support, we have been able to maintain an uptime of more than 99.5%.
3. What is the inverter capacity you have supplied in India till now? What is the target for the next year?
We started the solar inverter business in 2012 here in India and so far we have supplied & installed more than 3 GW grid tied central and string solar inverters.
We are targeting to leverage our existing installation base by almost 50% to 4.5 GW (from the existing level of 3 GW) in the span of the next 2 years.
4. How has the performance of your inverters been in terms of customer feedback and satisfaction? How do you strive for constant improvement?
Today Hitachi Hi-Rel is being viewed as one of the most trustworthy partners for Solar Inverter Solutions as they are delivering considerably high output & also consolidate the reliability of the plant operations with an uptime of more than 99.5%. With respect to the customer feedback, there are plentiful positive responses from the renowned power generating companies, Solar developers & EPCs of India acknowledging that they are fully satisfied with the product & prompt service support being offered by the Hitachi Team. We have a mechanism to seek constant feedback from the customers & also to measure their satisfaction index which is being reviewed at the highest level.
5. Innovation through research & development has been rooted in Hitachi Hi-REL’s DNA. Tell us about some of the recent initiatives taken under R&D.
Yes, R&D has always been our prime focus & we always intend to leverage it to drive both Innovation and Growth. As a part of continuous technical advancement, we have recently developed the most advanced & next generation 2.5 MW Solar Central Inverter which is outdoor type & suitable for 1500 V DC Solar PV system, This product offers the considerably maximum power generation & lowest ever footprint in this segment. it also offers unique heat dissipation & management system which leads to negligible auxiliary power consumption. This product also offers a wider MPPT range. key benefits to the customer are
(1) 25 Years’ service reliability
(2) huge benefit in both CAPAX and OPEX during the complete life cycle of the inverter
(3) advanced remote operation features to help operators to control overall power management.
6. How do you see inverters and related technology evolving in the coming years in India? How is Hitachi planning to evolve with the same?
Inverter & related Technologies seem to be ever-changing. Just before a decade, we had 250kW – 750kW inverters with a very large footprint significantly affecting the cost & progressively in last one decade, we have transited in terms of power rating > 750kW, voltage rating up to 1500V DC & also towards significantly lower footprints, facilitating significant per KW cost reduction. The market is expected to move to still higher ratings in terms of both Power & Voltage & we are gearing up ourselves to meet this market requirement which is likely to emerge in the next 2 or 3 years. We shall also be working on integrating AI technology as one of the inbuilt features with our inverters. Also, we are looking at adding battery PCS and hybrid inverters to our product family. Hence, we are continuously on innovation drive in solar inverter technology to meet the present and upcoming demands of the Global Solar market.