Energy 2.0

EYE ON THE SUN: Solar projects worth Rs 36,300 crore are on the anvil

Posted on: May 21, 2008

The semiconductor policy has certainly revved up the solar photovoltaic cell segment, with the government receiving five proposals worth Rs 36,300 crore to set up manufacturing plants. Once complete, these projects are expected to up manufacturing capacity to about 5,000 MW, from the current 200 MW. At present, barely 3 MW of solar energy is generated. In the 11th Five-Year Plan, this is likely to touch 50 MW, entailing an investment of about Rs 3,900 crore.

SEZ status to manufacturing units has provided many benefits to the industry. “India can have a head-start in the solar sector. The products can find markets in Germany, where solar power is highly incentivised,” says Jaswinder Ahuja of Cadence.

The increasing thrust on clean and renewable energy is trimming the cost of technology and production. In 2007, the total global solar photovoltaic market installations jumped by 62% to 2,826 MW. Solarbuzz, a company that tracks the solar power market, notes that solar cell production reached 3,436 MW in 2007, up from 2,204 MW a year earlier.

The lower level of complexity while making solar cells, when compared to semi-conductors, attracts companies. “On an average, it takes 62 steps to produce a chip, while a solar cell needs only 20. A smaller ecosystem to complete the manufacturing and marketing chain makes this sector attractive,” says Arulkumar Shanmugasundram of Applied Materials.

For companies like Reliance, solar might be the opportunity to cash in on the growing energy demand. “We are not into the energy-generation business. The huge potential of solar fits in with our business plan,” a Reliance official says. India has yet to get a huge chunk of the solar pie. China has at least 44 solar cell manufacturing companies and the US has around 100 companies making solar products. “It is booming everywhere. It is just a question of evaluating how viable it would be to set up a plant in a country,” says Keshav Prasad, Vice-President, Signet Solar, which has announced investments of around $2 billion in solar projects in India.

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