In coversation with Mr. Rahul Dasari, Co-founder and CEO, Sunshot Technologies
Please tell us about the current installed capacity of the company and what are the investment plans for this year?
Recently we have crossed 150 rooftop installations. In 2014 we had a humble start with FIAT, 10 kWp rooftop capacity and in September 2018 we have commissioned 3350 kWp rooftop capacity at Bangalore International Airport.We have been almost doubling our installed capacity in the rooftop space every year and want to increase this pace with exceptional Quality and Safety standards.We are one of the few companies in rooftop solar sector which is well capitalized and profitable; where excessive competition has really eroded the margins and made it look like commodity product. At Sunshot we truly believe that it is a temporary phase; working power plant on top of the roof of an industrial and commercial entity is not an easy job from quality and technology point of view. In the EPC business the only way you can differentiate yourself is how your previous projects have really worked out and performing.We have started investing a lot in developing technologies, solutions and services whichwill help us scaleup the rooftop installations. Inherently scaling rooftop solar power plantis very difficult as every roof is different, and you need to do a customized job.This year we have introduced our own PV module mounting structure brand-PVFix. Our structures are designed to reduce the overall installation time and improves quality of the installation. Similarly, from asset management perspective we believe that when you have hundreds of assets spread across various roofs you need to bring in advanced technologies like IoT, Analytics, Automatic intelligent cleaning systems etc. to manage the assets well; both technically and commercially.
You had a recent plant built for Bangalore International Airport Ltd. Would like to tell us more about this project? What have been the most interesting & challenging projects that you have undertaken so far?
After commissioning multimegawatt capacity rooftop solar power plant at Mumbai International Airport, I am proud to share with you that in September 2018 we have commissioned 3.35 MWp rooftop solar power plant at Bangalore International Airport (BIAL). It is the single largest rooftop solar power plant order in the Indian solar industry.This is a significant milestone in our journey of clean energy. BIAL solar power plant adheresto finest safety practices, quality norms, and construction methodology. After thorough analysis of all the roofs at BIAL, we installed solar power plant over multiple roofs like Engineering and Maintenance, Menzies Bobba and Air India SATS buildings.These roofs are easy to maintain and can yield maximum energy. Additionally, we had to design and engineer power plant such that the solar panels should not cast glare taking off and landing of the planes. For us, one of the latest and most challenging project was Nashik City Center Mall, 842 kWpcapacity. The challenging and most interesting part of the project was its roof diversity. The power plant has been installed on RCC, Metal and Polycarbonate sheet roofs of the mall.The RCC roof of multilevel car parking building is utilized to install significant capacityof power plant using 18 ft high metal structure raised on the 7th floor of the building. For Polycarbonate roof, safety was of prime importance. We have done a great work ininstalling 91 tons of steel structure on the polycarbonate sheet and RCC roof where 515kWp capacity has been installed. Around 327 kWp of total capacity has been installed onvarious trapezoidal and Kalzip metal roofs of the mall.The other challenging installations was Cognizant Technology Solutions – 472 kWp capacity. At the Chennai facility of Cognizant, we have installed power plant on a 9-storymulti-level-car-park building using 110 tons of steel. The power plant is designed to with stand a wind speed of more than 180 Km/hr. I am proud to say that our designs have sustained the high wind speeds from cyclone Vardah which hit Chennai 1.5 years back.
How have your projects performed, financially and How have your projects performed, financially and technically? Has the ROE been up to your own expectations?
Yes, most of our projects have performed as per the expectations both commercially and technically. We are neither too aggressive or conservative with our energy yield assessment. We do yield assessment very methodically and scientifically from the climate data we get,this helps in setting the expectations right. The yields from all the plants we have installed are as per the expectations. But in north India because of pollution and suspended are as per the expectations. But in north India because of pollution and suspendedparticulate matter none of the modeling software can take up the actual conditions foryield estimation. The yields in such regions are much lesser than these software estimates.When it comes to yield estimates in such areas we go with absolute on-field data.Financially majority of our customers are satisfied and as a result we are also doing well.
Financing is still a major issue in the sector. How difficult israising finance for rooftop solar projects?
There are two types of projects happening in rooftop solar. One is in Capex model andother is Opex model.In Opex; third party investor puts in money and signs the PPA with customer. This model is for the customers with BBB+ ratings. Here we do not see any financing issue. The actualchallenge is with returns. The market has become so commoditized that many of theforeign investors are not meeting there return numbers. As a result, they put cost pressureon EPC which can hamper the quality of the solar power plant.In Capex projects; most of the Indian nationalized financing institutes including StateBank, Punjab National Bank and Non-Banking Financial Companies has been not veryforthcoming to support the sector. This is the reason you can not see lot of projectshappening under Capex model.
Do you think India is an investor friendly market for this sector?
Yes, absolutely. India is a great market for solar investors. Testimony to the fact is at speed which solar installations in the country has ramped up in last 2-3 years. This would not have happened if investors would have found the market not to be investor friendly. But lot of external factors has brought in uncertainty into the solar sector, this is impacting the investments in the sector. For example, rooftop solar net metering policy is not implemented in smooth fashion. The 1 MW cap on the net metering must be removed. Rupee has greatly depreciated against dollar as a result lot of bidding has gone haywire.Also, there is always an uncertainty regarding open access policies, government keep changing it regularly because of which project IRR goes for a toss. Not in India but across the world distribution companies facing huge pressure on thebottom line. This is bound to happen. Here government need to step-up and supportdistribution companies by giving them targets to increase rooftop solar installations in there respective areas and give subsidy amount can be given to the distribution companiesfor their economic viability.