Solar Power can Reduce Diesel Genset Requirement

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Having long experience in bulk optical media like CD and DVD, Moser Baer entered the solar business in 2006 as part of the diversification strategy and with an intent to leverage its cost strength and expertise in coting technology. Today, solar is a crucial part of the company’s overall business. Governance Today spoke to K. Subramaniam to find out the experience of the company is solar business and the scope of solar business in the country

K-Subramaniam
K. Subramaniam, CEO, Moser Baer Solar

Does Moser Baer have any alliance with any global  player for bringing in latest technology to this business?

In 2006 and 07 we brought this technology to this country for multiple type of solar products. Primary technology in solar PV panel is the crystal silicon and almost 95 per cent of the global solar market is crystal silicon model, rest being thin film model. We felt that it was important for us to present both. So, we entered in both these segments with foreign technology. As for machinery, it came from Smith Germany and E-mate US.

Could you brief our reader about your assessment of the status of solar business in India?

Being an important business of Moser Baer, solar business is a separate vertical named MB Solar Ltd. Our idea is that with the new government intending to deliver 24/7 power for all within the next five to ten years, the solar would be playing a vital role because it can fit in the parameters of scale, speed and skill development needed for 24/7 power delivery. The mission of the current government is well articulated by Mr. Piyush Goel when he said he wanted to see that solar take the stellar role in power production in the country. Solar did not take off in the last five years but I think it would do very well in coming half decade.

The current government is working with intent to insure that there is continues demand for solar power, which is the critical element of ensuring success of the sector. The government has come up with two prompt approaches; one, to promote the solar related manufacturing in the country,
and second, to allow imports so that low cost imported panels can bring down solar power price. We have great radiation zones in Rajasthan and Gujrat and if we provide proper support, solar can take off very well.

What are the challenges in maintaining the solar power system?

I am not expecting any challenges if we once develop the skill required to manage it. As I say earlier, scale, speed and skill development are necessary. The man who is running the solar system has to well trained to take care of all the issue which come up. One has to insure that battery doesn’t get discharged and people who are drawing power are drawing only allotted power and not more.

What is your opinion to use the solar system in urban area?

My opinion is there are many place where the solar power can be used, all the primary health care centres, school, colleges etc. can be good clients as many of them use substantial power in day time. Roof tops of government buildings can host solar panels. The power produced can be deployed during day time. Secondly, this can be connected to the grid so whatever excess is produced in weekend, can go to the grid.

In our country, majority of power short fall occurs during day time when the peak power shortage is about 7 to 10 per cent. If we are able to take care of during peak time, we need not install the huge gen sets. Solar can manage during day time and in the evening, wind can take over.

What all needs to be done to promote solar power?

See, there are two or three things. First, when we started the journey of solarisation, around the year 2010, the prices were substantially higher. Thanks to the Chinese, the prices have come down for a solar system almost by 60-70 per cent. So, the price of solar power has come down from Rs 17.91 when the first solar programme started in the country in 2010, to Rs. 6.00 – 6.50 today. This means we are touching grid parity with respect to the imported coal. Second, it is scalable and rapid construction is possible. We can put up 1 MW per day once the funding is available. Lastly, funding is the crucial issue. If we can arrange adequate funding, it can take off.

How is the financing situation?

We have made a small beginning. However, the US and KFW, Germany are willing to provide $1bn each. We can negotiate and get some support from countries such as Japan and China as well. If we are talking about 100,000 MW in 5-10 years means, we are talking about investment of around $100bn. If the money cannot come from domestic sources, we need to attract foreign direct investments.

By when you are looking at solar power attaining grid parity?

Currently, our estimation is that we are very close to grid parity versus imported coal. I am thinking the next 3-4 years, by 2018-2019, we must be in a position to reach the parity with respect to domestic coal. Because costs of coal are going up and management issues are challenging, which will drive the cost of coal-based thermal power.

How conducive is it for the industry to play a role in the Indian renewable energy sector?

If renewables have to succeed, all of us have to act. There is a strong role for the renewables in our country’s energy mix. The dream of 24×7 power for all can be realized only with the strong participation of solar as well as wind. I’ll focus on solar. In my opinion, this is possible with large scale funding coming from the government. I am not expecting subsidy but funding should be made available at more liberal terms so that paybacks can improve. There are three key factors we are looking at. First, solar power can satisfy much of the energy demand in the country. Second, the government is determined to provide 24×7 power. Third, the financing structure for these projects needs to be built. Once there is clear policy guidelines on infrastructure funding, including solar, it will go a long way in solarisation of India.