In an exciting interview with SolarQuarter magazine, Sunil Badesra, Country Head, Sungrow India gave us insights on the massive 10GW Make in India manufacturing capacity and how this will help the company to target countries outside India. He also shared details about their services in terms of energy storage and robotic cleaning and how Sungrow will continue to spearhead the market as always.
Sungrow has a huge manufacturing capacity in India, which is more than 10 GW. So what were the factors that inspired this massive expansion and Make in India facility?
Four years back when we put up our 3 GW setup, we were expecting that maybe the Indian market will operate somewhere around 7-8 GW every year and that was happening but in the last couple of years, we have seen that this figure has crossed even 9 GW. So, based on that if we calculate, this 3 GW setup was not sufficient for us and at the same time the kind of demand which is coming in the market not only in the inverter but also the storage front, we decided it is the right time to do the expansion. This is the reason why we are expanding this factory from 3 GW to 10 GW capacity. I’m sure that in case we are not able to utilize this 10 GW set up here, the extra capacity we can utilize to export the inverters to other countries as well.
Kindly tell us more about which countries are you targeting to serve?
In the last four years, we have shipped around 15 gigawatts of the inverter from the Indian factory and that shipment has gone to the U.S. market for another couple of projects, we have supplied in the Europe market as well. Also, the countries which are near to India such as Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh also we’re going to cover from this factory. Now, we are expanding the setup to 10GW, so we are also exploring Middle East market projects if we are left with some extra capacity.
Is there a plan to expand Sungrow’s India factory beyond 10 GW capacity? Is there a road map in terms of capacity addition that is already set?
Yes, we are already exploring but not in terms of the capacity but the new products which we are launching in the Indian market. We have planned to add a robotic cleaning system, which maybe you’ll see in the next couple of years. We are planning to manufacture it locally and then sell it in the Indian market. In terms of capacity, there is no challenge, we can immediately increase it like this time we have done it in one year and it all depends on the demand which is coming from the market. If market demand is there then definitely we are always ready to increase the investment in India.
How is an expansion planned to cover more and more services from Sungrow, especially with respect to first energy storage and then robotic cleaning?
Let me give you a brief on how we’re planning with this 10 GW setup. The current setup of 3GW which we’re having is majorly the assembly. But in this 10 GW set-up expansion, the major thing is the SMT line which we’re putting in. It means all the PCBs which are getting used in the inverters are going to be local and the reason behind it is that there is the majority of the tenders, which are coming these days, are asking for their class-1 requirement which says that at least 50% local content should be there in the inverter. So, I think we will be the first company who is going to do this by having a local SMT line for all range of products. In this 10 GW, we have done 4 GW is a string inverter then a balance of 6 GW is for the central inverters. Whatever the numbers I’m telling you, are based on the single shift, so you can understand, in case we run the factory in two or three shifts, that the capacity is going to get multiplied accordingly. The other products which we are planning are in the BESS. We have already closed a couple of storage projects in India on a bigger scale, 50 MWh+ and going forward we’re expecting that more and more storage projects are going to come into the Indian market. We are hopeful that as soon as these projects actually start execution on the ground so we are going to have all the electronics components which are used in BESS solutions like PCS we’re going to manufacture locally in India. Even we are also exploring the assemble battery cells locally, in case these things work out and can give some advantage to our customers. So, definitely, we are ready to do the investment in that batteries as well and as I mentioned we are launching few other products like Robotic cleaning systems with the name Sunpure and maybe in next couple of years we will set up a new factory for that if demand remains there and will start supplying all the robotic cleaning system locally from Indian factory. We also have planned to come in the EV segment so there also you will see some movement 6-7 months later.
How is Sungrow reacting to the market? How is it spearheading the future as it has always done?
Six years ago, when we entered the Indian market, then only European suppliers were there. So, how were we able to make our position in the Indian market? It was because of those solutions which we were offering to Indian customers at that time, 5-6 years ago. At that time market was completely operating on a 4 MW block size in a solar plant on a utility-scale. Then, we shifted that market from 4MW to a 10 MW block size, where customers were able to save on BOS costs. So this is one of the major reasons why this price tariff has been achieved which the IPPs are bidding on today. Definitely, technology plays a very vital role in that. Later on, from 10 MW size, we made the solution for 12.5 MW. Worldwide, Sungrow was the only company that first made 10 MW size possible for customers than 12.5 MW and now 12.5 MW is in the market for the last four years. Now, we are coming up with new product solutions.
The new inverter range which we have started proposing to our customers which is going to give them some indirect benefits in terms of BOS or how they’re going to maintain the inverters over a period of 25 years so there are many things happening. I think over a period of six months you will see what different solutions we are offering in the Indian market and then I’ll be in a better situation to give you the detailed information on this frame but yes, this is about the block size inverter rating and secondly, the site initially 1000 Volt market was there then we shifted to 1500 Volt now a lot of R&D happening, where 2000 or 2100 Volt solutions are getting worked out. As an inverter supplier will be ready to provide the solution to meet the demand of the market in terms of the new technology which is going to come. Aside from this, there are many other things happening, we’re working on R&D where we are planning to remove the transformer also so you can connect directly inverter output directly to the 33 KV alignment. Over a period of years, you’ll see the new solutions which we’re going to offer in the market.
How much has the Indian government-supported or encouraged you? What have been the responses since you have set up?
I have personally met with the MNRE team many times and mentioned the challenges we have faced in previous years. Also, we have been sharing feedback with them, continuously. Even today, we are facing challenges in the market which is related to the investment, what we have done in the market and the setup we have put up in Bangalore to make this 10 GW possible. So, the major challenge that we’re facing right now is that despite investing, we’re not getting expected support because especially in the rooftop segment there are, except Sungrow, no other company has Make in India inverters. Other Indian manufacturers are there, who are in the Indian market for more than ten years and still they’re importing the inverters from other countries. So, this kind of support we are expecting from the government, we were pushing them to impose the duty and definitely, they have taken one step. Now, we are expecting that this duty should be increased so that the kind of infiltration which is still happening from outside could be stopped.
Otherwise, the kind of investment we have done and the efforts we are putting in Indian markets, sometimes we lack the motivation. This is one of the major things which we are expecting. Secondly, when we’re talking about PLI, people are talking about PLI only in terms of modules. I have said multiple times that I understand the modules’ contribution in any solar project is about 60% to 65% but the inverter is also one of the major components which we cannot ignore along with the other BOS items. That kind of motivation is very important to the suppliers like us. It is not only as even for other inverter suppliers but also even for other BOS components. This kind of scheme is not going to have much impact on us but if it comes into action then definitely it’s a kind of additional motivation. It will be like, the government is thinking and have some attention to the inverter companies. Currently, we are just feeling that the inverter is completely ignored by the government. Nobody talks about the inverter, it’s just ‘module’ talk. These are the major things, so any other additional benefits if the government can give to the players who are making an additional investment by fulfilling a requirement or 50% local content. This is going to be an additional motivating factor for us.