Author: PV-Tech

India’s short-term hurdles won’t stop four-fold PV boom in a decade

Policy headwinds in India will not divert the PV sector from a decade-long path of colossal growth backed by the government, according to Fitch Solutions.

The firm’s latest update predicts Indian PV capacity to ramp up by an average, annual 15.3% between 2018 and 2028, jumping from 26GW to 105.9GW in the period.

The government, Fitch Solutions said, will keep up the momentum through a recipe of “aggressive” growth targets, numerous tenders and policies to unlock investment towards solar.

Thailand, Vietnam imports to sidestep tariffs for China

According to the firm, India’s adoption last year of 25% tariffs for Chinese and Malaysian cells and modules will create uncertainties and costs but these will lessen in the long term.

The duties, Fitch Solutions argued, will likely be scrapped after their two-year expiry date, if it emerges they didn’t succeed in kickstarting a local manufacturing scene able to compete with Chinese imports.

In the interim, the firm continued, plummeting technology costs mean developers can resort to alternative import routes; Thailand and Vietnam, which Chinese manufacturers are expanding to, are already being tapped into.

According to Fitch Solutions, the lack of clarity around the goods and services tax – thought to up PV costs by 5.8% since its roll-out in 2017 – looks set to dispel. Last December’s government clarifications pave the way for developers to negotiate tax reliefs for existing PPAs.

PV’s wish list as India heads to the polls

The Indian PV predictions herald a brighter outlook after a tough 2018, when execution challenges and policy uncertainty sparked a 27.8% drop in installations.

The government – currently in the midst of six-week general elections – has been urged by consultants to “work hard” to restore investor confidence after last year’s “hammering”.

The prediction of Fitch Solutions is that even if prime minister Narendra Modi is not re-elected – in its view, such a scenario is not likely – his successors would respect existing policies to promote renewables.

As the firm noted, the reform set in motion in recent years includes 12GW in installations through the Central Public Sector Undertaking programme, the adoption of renewable power obligations and grid upgrades; Tamil Nadu and other states are adding to the efforts with separate targets and schemes.

PV IndiaTech Talk: Finlay Colville to deliver 1-hour manufacturing seminar

PV Tech can reveal that our head of research, Dr. Finlay Colville, will deliver a one-hour presentation seminar during the forthcoming PV IndiaTech 2019 conference taking place in Delhi on 24-25 April 2019.

The talk – titled Global manufacturing trends, benchmarking: how India competes as a production powerhouse in the PV industry from 2020 onwards – will provide the Indian PV sector with key metrics needed to evaluate the viability of upstream investments demanded under the country’s emerging domestic-content requirement policies.

Ahead of Finlay’s talk – scheduled to close the final day of PV IndiaTech 2019 on 25 April 2019 – PV Tech took the opportunity to chat with Finlay about what to expect from his seminar, and the drivers behind the content and value of such a presentation at the event.

Mark Osborne: Thanks Finlay for taking the time to preview the PV IndiaTech 2019 event, the full details of which were recently covered in a blog on PV-Tech earlier this week. Can you start by explaining what prompted you to undertake a one-hour seminar assignment as part of the agenda over the two days of the event?

Dr. Finlay Colville: Most times at events, my inputs are limited in scope and often confined to specific global PV issues within a 20-30 minute presentation slot. However, this time, a longer and more detailed talk was deemed to be of value due to unique circumstances impacting the whole India PV value-chain today.

During the research our team has undertaken over the past six months, through hundreds of discussions with the entire Indian PV sector – from government bodies, policy-makers, investors, manufacturers, suppliers, site builders and asset owners – it became clear that everyone in India has a fundamental need to understand global technology trends and how changes under the broad Make-in-India initiative will impact component production and site supply during the decade from 2020 to 2030. By 2030, India is likely to have surpassed its long-term aspiration to have more than 300GW of PV deployed and a significant portion of this will involve cells, modules, materials and BoS components that are produced by Indian companies or JV’s involving partnering overseas entities.

Virtually everyone we spoke to asked us what the real technology roadmap of the PV industry would be, which companies were driving the benchmarks for product performance, cost and pricing, and critically what India should invest in to be competitive with product coming out of China.

It therefore seemed important that a one-hour seminar could be of great value at the event, with our research and methodology adopted within the PV-Tech market research team offering an unbiased bottom-up perspective.

Is it simply a case of India adding more cell lines that are based on p-mono PERC, or is it more complicated than this?

In short, it is much more complicated, and way more far-reaching than simply adding a few gigawatts of mono PERC that is now a 50GW+ manufacturing industry installed within China, and where some leading cell makers are intent on adding tens of GW’s of new capacity in the next few years.

The decision-making within India today includes more basic questions such as:

Should the investments covered under DCR policies be confined to cells and modules, or is there a viable roadmap where poly/wafer capacity can have any viability and global significance?
If wafer production is chosen, how does the country possibly compete with leaders such as GCL-Poly and LONGi Solar?
What role does thin-film play, given this is a technology that has seen huge investments in recent years from the industry’s leader First Solar – a company that has huge experience of setting up GW-level fabs globally with efficiency of build and ramp-up.
Should investments be based on having a large number of 500MW to 1GW factories, or is there a need to back a small group of technologies/companies and drive economy-of-scale benefits in 5-10GW operations?
How do the investments translate to having materials supply for cell/module assembly covered under Make-in-India mandates, and what needs to be ringfenced also at the balance-of-systems level?

The key thing India has in its favour here is based on the 300GW by 2030 target, and probably being the lowest-risk 100GW-plus deployment country in the world during the decade from 2020 to 2030. This simple fact means that every major company making, using and owning solar products and assets either has, or will have soon, an India-specific business plan to cover the next 10 years.
Therefore, India does have an incredibly powerful hand to play in setting out the ground rules for what this 300GW will look like, and crucially how it must come to fruition alongside a viable and profitable manufacturing sector.

So while, every solar company globally should be aware of technology trends and price/cost forecasting, India has to quickly be up-to-speed across every segment of its industry, from government advisers thought to IPPs and long-term portfolio owners.
 

There have been many announcement though in the past ten years of JV’s, MoU’s and initiatives, almost all of which have come to nothing. So what is different now?

Yes, there was a time when the announcements were barely worth reading, but in the past 12 months, lots of things have happened that have changed the landscape and relevance of the country for inward investment and domestic-owned capacity expansions.

First, the country now has 25GW-plus of deployed solar capacity, and the stats in terms of cell and module supply do not make happy-reading for many within India, as more than 90% has been imported from China. And a large portion of this has been product that is lower-performing than cells and modules used in other global regions.

Attempts to have anti-dumping and other import tariff based additives placed on overseas origin-of-manufacture have not had any meaningful impact, very similar to every other case of AD-related actions taken within the solar industry.

Crucially, the WTO-compliant DCR carve-out allocations now dominate policy-makers intentions and this changes everything for domestic production within India.

Different today also is that the PV industry has gone through a rapid evolution of high-efficiency and yield-enhancing product availability for utility-scale solar farm deployment. We are now at a time in the growth of PV where simply being the lowest-cost producer of p-multi mono-facial Al-BSF product wins out. And this is driving productivity gains at a rapid rate, and now there is scope for technology differentiation and ASP premiums that are clear winners when forecasting site returns and IRRs to the finance community. Technical due-diligence within the banks is real, and works!

Returning to your one-hour seminar at the event, can you give some teasers as to what you will be covering?

Anyone that has tuned into my online webinars during the past few years will be aware roughly of the topics covered when looking at manufacturing value-chain metrics, and the seminar at PV IndiaTech will broadly follow these guidelines, but focused on “what does this mean for new capacity within India, and how can it compete and be of value to developers and EPCs in the next few years”.

The seminar will start by looking at the likely technology split for module supply globally over the next five years, including some of the factors that drive inflection points in technology availability. This will be followed by going through the c-Si value-chain, from poly to module, explaining the cost benchmarks for both p-multi and p-mono and how this sustains further ASP erosion going forward.

In particular, the talk will focus on the companies that are the drivers behind low-cost manufacturing, for polysilicon, wafers, cells and modules. This is essential today, as this sets the low-cost threshold that everyone is judged against and is the difference between margins being positive or in the red.

The tricky bit comes next and is the question that the entire Make-in-India solar proposition is founded on: how can India prosper when investing in new manufacturing capacity going forward, and how can it compete with China. One can almost forget other countries outside India in terms of benchmarking: everything is about China as the benchmark.

So, one final question. Do you think there will be one clear call-to-action or will the debate rumble on for years to come, in terms of how India adds new capacity and is competitive on the global stage?

The good thing is there is no single route to be competitive going forward, but several. Everything does come back to investor returns and not module ASP or site-build capex. It seems simple and obvious to say, but all too often when solar farms builds kick off in countries, this is not fully implemented.

When you look globally at how utility-scale market evolve, there is a transition point from EPC driven site capex to investor-driven site returns. India would appear to be pending this key inflection point, but the more that completed site builds come under the spotlight in terms of performance ratio reviews, the more likely investors are to have an influence on capex, supplier choice and – importantly – technology selection.

Therefore, whether the offer is p-multi, p-mono PERC or n-type, there are attractive IRRs on offer going forward in the next few years, but in each case, product quality and supplier selection are paramount, and the role of third-party testing labs, factory auditors and independent engineers.

This means there is no binary selection process in terms of technology for new capacity, but more the requirement to focus on being aligned with benchmarks whether n/p type or mono/multi based, or in that matter mono-facial/bifacial, and so on for fixed-axis or tracking.

A few years ago, project development and module selection was weighted largely to p-multi (60 or 72-cell), but globally this has moved dramatically in the past few years. India will make this move in the next 12-18 months, at exactly the point where new manufacturing capacity comes online. As such, it would appear prudent to have knowledge on which technologies will be part of industry supply for utility-use in the next few years, and how each can offer returns to investors, with reliable and predicable yields.

 

The PV IndiaTech 2019 event takes place in Delhi on 24-25 April 2019. Details on how to attend can be found through the event website here.

PV IndiaTech to address the challenges facing the Indian solar sector in its drive to 300GW

Ahead of PV Tech launching its new PV IndiaTech conference, on 24-25 April 2019, in Delhi, I review in this blog what the event is all about, and why the timing of the event has turned out to be perfect as India debates how to create a sustainable manufacturing segment that supplies quality modules to its downstream segments.

The event has been devised by PV Tech, following our successful global upstream conferences PV CellTech and PV ModuleTech.

Factors prompting the decision to hold a dedicated event within India

For the past few years, we have had many requests from the India PV sector, and in fact from many overseas companies seeking to increase their presence in the region, to hold a high-quality focused event in India.

In fact, during the past few years of the PV CellTech and PV ModuleTech events, it became clear that there was an Indian-specific requirement to capture many of the findings from these events as they relate directly to the Indian PV market.

However, towards the end of 2018, and so far in 2019, the announcements from SECI related to DCR carve-out capacity for Make-in-India product (cells and modules) going forward, finally convinced us of the need to hold the inaugural PV IndiaTech event in Delhi on 24-25 April 2019.

There appears to be a strong desire from all stakeholders within India to understand not only the production issues related to manufacturing, but also the impact on site reliability and investor returns.

During the past 6 months, we have been speaking to most of the key stakeholders within the India PV community, from government officials to asset managers. This ultimately guided the scope of the two-day PV IndiaTech agenda but also the companies and speakers on stage.

Outlining the agenda for PV IndiaTech 2019

The two day event is dominated by invited presentations, with some discussion sessions included also.

Day one starts with an inaugural session, where government bodies, such as MNRE, SECI and Invest India, spell out the existing and future landscape for solar within India, with a focus on how manufacturing and new capacity expansions are being supported and prioritised.

This is followed by a session that looks at the India market in more details, including how inward investments are being facilitated, the role of state governments. Among the speakers within this session are Bridge-to-India and Ernst & Young.

Central and state government initiatives and new manufacturing investments

While MNRE/SECI is providing the framework for future domestic content requirement (DCR) carve-out capacity levels, and indeed various other types of domestic manufacturing related investments, there is also new drive from various states to accelerated regional manufacturing bases for cell and module production, including also aspects of the module BoS eco-system such as EVA and backsheets.

There are about 4-5 states that are currently reviewing setting up manufacturing ‘clusters’ that would entail several gigawatts of new cell and module capacity, and possibly module materials production, such as that reported by Maharashtra back in September 2018.

These initiatives are akin to previous efforts to facilitate Indian PV manufacturing across its special economic zones (SEZs), but also are no different to regional manufacturing drivers that permeate most countries. In the solar sphere, US states are often seen to entice companies to set up new manufacturing sites for example; and of course, analogous have to be made to how China’s regional drivers have so dramatically aided upstream capacity expansions there in recent years.

The opportunity created by state involvement within India today, to create regional manufacturing clusters, is interesting from several standpoints. For overseas companies looking to set up manufacturing within India, this route may assist in addressing infrastructure/build issues such as land availability, utility supply and permitting, while also linking some with local parties that wish to bring in financing in some kind of joint venture activity.

The fact that so many of the well-publicized inward investments of recent years, albeit mostly tenuous letters of intent or similar, have not come to fruition is in part due to companies overseas (mainly from China) perhaps not being fully au fait with the intricacies of Indian facilities and construction.

In this respect, the states’ involvements may provide some hand-holding of sorts, making it easier for previous advocated of Make-in-India PV such as LONGi Solar, GCL, Trina Solar and others.

What is interesting however about the involvement of the states is that they effectively become devolved inward-investments umbrellas, and therefore need to be fully aware of what they are potentially getting involved in. From a solar perspective, this involves knowing what to do, and being fully informed about the key metrics driving manufacturing today in the industry.

Examples of effective inward investment

During the last 10 years, I have been fortunate enough to have had numerous discussions with central and devolved government and policy officials globally, on the topic of domestic PV manufacturing and the role of overseas company involvement.

The strategies across these bodies have been very different, with some simply grabbing any short-term opportunity that comes their way, irrespective of the company getting any regional incentive or the technology being deployed. In fact, this also relates to whether the goal has been to establish cell and module assembly facilities, or just final module assembly. This makes a huge difference.

Looking at the results, what has happened in Malaysia stands out by some margin, and much of this can be traced back to the inward investment agency there (MIDA) that put a focus on which companies to back, and to dive into the technologies they were seeking to deploy. This included also the demand to make cells, not simply modules, and to equip the factories with new state-of-the-art equipment, and not simply to ship over used and outdated tools from mothballed sites from the companies HQ regions.

If the various states within India can learn from the MIDA case-study in PV, they will go a long way to succeeding in their goals, but this will require their staff and advisors to go through a steep learning curve. In part, we are hoping that PV IndiaTech 2019 provides them with some facts and figures in terms of benchmarking cost and performance of PV manufacturing, and we have been actively seeking to bring these organizations to the event in Delhi for this purpose.

More on the event agenda

The morning of day one the conference concludes with presentations from some of the leading PV manufacturing companies globally today, spelling out production benchmarks and where they see technology going in the coming years. Talks here come from the likes of LONGi Solar and Meyer Burger.

The afternoon of day one starts with a session focused on existing PV manufacturing within India, and features the market-leaders today for cells and modules, including Adani Solar, Vikram Solar, and Waaree Energies. This session is critical, as these companies are uniquely positioned to comment on how Indian manufacturing can be successful and how the new policies being implemented can be best put into effect. New capacity expansions across cell and modules within India will certainly have strong involvement of domestic companies, not simply from inward investment.

Day one concludes with one of the most asked-for topics of PV IndiaTech 2019: module quality, certification, reliability and bankability.

Discussions over the past year with Indian companies (in particular developers, EPCs, IPPs, and site owners) routinely comes back to the issue of module quality and reliability. While not uncommon globally, the concerns from the Indian downstream community are much more pertinent, and have been driven by the low-ball capex tactics employed regularly for utility-site builds.

This issue is dominating all aspects of the Indian PV sector, and is fundamental to all parties, with the government’s 2030/300GW plans being largely conditional on its initial 2020/100GW goal being deemed good value-for-money in setting up solar as a viable, competitive and reliably energy source.

More than 50 companies wanted to speak in this session alone! However, we decided to keep the company and speaker line-up highly focused and including complementary aspects of what feeds into module quality and reliability.

The session includes National Solar Energy Federation of India (NSEFI), STS (Senergy Technical Services) Certified, the independent engineering arm of L&T-Sargent & Lundy, and PV Evolution Labs. Each of these companies has specific involvement in the parameters guiding and measuring company and product reliability and bankability metrics used in the selection of product for utility scale solar deployment today. A panel discussion (expected to have eager participation from the audience!) will follow the invited talks.

Day two of PV IndiaTech 2019

We start day two of PV IndiaTech 2019 with a session specific to R&D technology-transfer. We decided to include this due to the need for Indian PV manufacturing – in particular cell production – to become state-of-the-art today and also to understand what next-generation cell architectures were being implemented outside the country.

When looking at many of the companies setting benchmark performance metrics for PV manufacturing today, a key component of this has been their engagement with some of the leading PV R&D institutes and how they have effectively transferred technology from lab-to-fab at the GW mass production level.

Speakers are from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), CEA-INES, the ISC Konstanz, SERIS and domestic-based IIT Bombay (NCPRE).

Returning to a key theme of day one, the following session is spearheaded by DuPont, looking at how quality through the value chain, in terms of module component supply, module assembly, system build, and tracking performance on-site back to materials and supplier choice. This issue also feeds into a host of topics impacting the India sector today, many of which were flagged above during the day one overview above.

The closing afternoon of PV IndiaTech 2019 starts by looking at companies that are market-leaders in technologies that differentiate from the China-centric c-Si wafer/cell production offerings today. This session is particularly relevant to India today, with the country having to ensure that future technology support is not simply adopting me-too variants of what China can dominate through economy-of-scale and single-digit gross-margin operations.

Technologies and companies challenging the China status-quo

Two of the companies presenting at this session are First Solar and 1366 Technologies.

First Solar already has a multi-GW track-record of module supply to the India market, is in the process of investing billion-dollar levels of capex into its new Series 6 thin-film panels, and has shown repeatedly that it can build its ‘copy-exact’ methodology in different countries with rapid pace and efficiency: factors that the Indian market needs during its next phases of investment.

1366 Technologies has hit the headlines recently, when reporting it would ramp its ‘Direct Wafer’ production at a new facility in Malaysia. The technology seeks to lower silicon utilization rates to below 1.5g/W with a lower cost structure seen today in the mainstream ingot/wafer two-stage process stages of the c-Si value-chain. The talk by 1366 is important now within the Indian context, with policy makers still grappling with how to create domestic production upstream from the cell stage, without simply being a second-rate option to Chinese wafer supply today.

Hearing from leading downstream players in the India market

The remaining talks in the afternoon of day two of the event are dedicated to some of the leading companies driving project development, EPC construction, portfolio ownership, O&M, asset management and IPP activities.

PV IndiaTech 2019 is featuring market-leaders during this session, including Adani Green Energy, ReNew Power, Mahindra Susten, ACME Group and Fortum. Further perspectives on O&M and asset management are being delivered by Alectris.

This session is critical within the scope of the two-day proceedings, as the Indian downstream segment is at the heart of the whole-industry drive to higher performing products with improved quality and reliability, and how this ultimately impacts on asset return-on-investment.

Furthermore, with increasing levels of DCR and domestic content use in the coming years, it is vital that the domestic downstream sector understands how to benchmark imported products (and materials) with those that are available today within India, or will be offered when the new upstream factories come online in the coming years.

How to attend PV IndiaTech 2019

The event takes place at the Leela Palace, New Delhi during 24-25 April 2019. Information on how to register to attend can be found by navigating the tabs at the event website here.

CSUN India dispute a ‘one-off case’, says ACME Solar

India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has warned domestic companies against using solar modules from Chinese supplier CSUN, having received complaints from several Indian firms.

One of India’s leading developers, ACME Solar, which has 2.5GW of solar capacity in operation and 4GW at various stages of development, was one of the complainants.

Sandeep Kashyap, president of ACME, told PV Tech: “We have dealt with most of the Tier 1/Major module suppliers from China and find this to be a special one-off case so far. Having said that, we also understand CSUN, with 1.2GW of integrated facilities, has defaulted with multiple developers in India in the last two years.”

Indeed, the Consulate General of India in Shanghai has also reported that CSUN is a “high risk” company with more than 160 court cases filed against it in Chinese courts in the last five years, mainly for similar breaches of contract, showing the firm to be what Kashyap described as “a habitual offender”.

An MNRE notice said that CSUN had breached module supply contracts with Indian firms and failed to return advance payments made to them. The Ministry noted one specific case where the matter had been settled in favour of an Indian company through the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (see boxed text below), but CSUN has not yet honoured the ruling.

In the light of its approaching solar target of 100GW by 2022, MNRE stated: “Such breach of valid contracts and not supplying modules on time by foreign companies cannot be tolerated.”

Tier trouble

Kashyap noted that CSUN had been a member of Bloomberg’s Tier-1 list of module suppliers at the time of the procurement, a list which is referred to by many global buyers and financial institutions, however, since then, CSUN has been taken off the list.

The BNEF solar tiering team told PV Tech that it was fully aware of CSUN’s financial situation and highlighted that the first paragraph of its tiering list methodology, which has been online in more or less the same form since 2012, states this “should never replace a proper due diligence process in product selection”.

Kashyap said MNRE has been trying to ensure supply from reputed and serious module manufacturers in India through new quality standards and introducing its ‘Approved List of Models and Manufacturers (ALMM)’, in which it will be compulsory for all module suppliers in or into India to enlist after March 2020. For the ALMM, inspection teams will ascertain, as far as possible, that there are no contractual violations on part of the applicant in supply of cells or modules.

Kashyap added that ACME was grateful to MNRE for responding to the complaints and safeguarding the industry from contractors that don’t fulfil their commitments.

Escalation risk

Adding an alternative viewpoint, Vinay Rustagi, managing director of consultancy firm Bridge to India, said: “Unfortunately, this has been the nature of market - the breaches have been going on for a long time on both sides.

“The government action, while laudable, creates the risk of escalation when trade anxieties are already very high. We believe that such matters should ideally be resolved by private companies themselves or by industry associations.”

MNRE said Indian companies would now be dealing with CSUN at their own risk and advised companies to contact Indian authorities in China to verify the reputation of Chinese companies before placing any orders. It is also informing banks and lending institutions on the matter.

The ACME Case

According to ACME Solar, it placed an order with CSUN for the supply of 30MW of solar PV modules on 20 September 2017. It paid a 30% advance on 25 September 2017, but CSUN failed to supply 30MW modules to ACME. The two parties then mutually agreed to reduce the capacity to 9MW – equivalent to the advance amount paid to CSUN – however, CSUN again failed to supply 9MW modules and did not return the advance amount paid by ACME.

ACME stated: “This has happened for the first time [during the] last nine years of module purchasing from China. CSUN is the only one amongst most suppliers which defaulted on meeting their contractual obligations.”

In March 2018, ACME applied under Rule 5.1 of the SIAC (Singapore International Arbitration Centre) for the arbitration to be conducted. CSUN did not appear in any of the arbitration hearings.

On 24 January 2019, Arbitral Tribunal ordered CSUN to pay the claimant more than US$4 million for damages for breach of contract with additional legal and arbitration costs.

PV Tech has contacted CSUN for comment but the Chinese firm has yet to reply.

India starts review phase on technology-selection for multi-GW of new cell and module facilities

Following recent announcements from the government departments administering India’s solar PV growth ambitions, the country is now in the process of working out how to expand its domestic upstream manufacturing capacity, at a time when the PV industry is going through a period of rapid technology-change and supplier competition.

Having been through various (albeit at reduced levels) manufacturing capacity expansion phases over the past couple of decades, it really is crunch time for prudent decision-making across both domestic and overseas investors, seeking to move India finally to manufacturing powerhouse status.

The article discusses the opportunity and challenges involved for India to realize the addition of 5-10 GW of new cell and module manufacturing capacity, now being spelled out through a combination of domestic content requirement (DCR) and manufacturing-linked supply-arrangements designed specifically to create a risk-free sales pipeline to stimulate multi-GW levels of annual cell and module production within India.

The timing of the government-body announcements over the past few months is particularly relevant to PV-Tech’s inaugural PV IndiaTech 2019 conference that takes place in Delhi on 24-25 April 2019. This article previews the conference themes, companies lined up to speak, and how such an event has the potential of educating not just the entire Indian solar segment, but also overseas investors and manufacturing/technology suppliers that are lining up to benefit from the capex uptick from 2020 onwards.

Understanding the drivers for Make-in-India PV manufacturing

India has a heritage in solar cell manufacturing that predates the first major industry growth phase, and well before the days of GW-level global end-market deployment. Government-owned and domestic-run conglomerates such as Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited and Tata epitomised early PV fervour: the JV cell facility operated by Tata BP Solar in Bangalore was at the time one of the most eagerly-tracked manufacturing sites of global industry observers.

Indeed, anyone glancing at MNRE’s compendium of cell producing companies in recent years can see almost all of the early cell manufacturing advocates still listed, despite the fact that very few are running lines today in any competitive manner.

Two other mini expansions booms have occurred within India during the past 15 years. The first one (dating back to before 2010) was stimulated by the goal of exporting cells to module producers outside India. The second phase was prompted by the National Solar Mission’s stimulus in domestic module supply to installers and EPCs, and was accompanied by the market-entry of pure-play module producers, some of whom expanded to the GW-level.

Few, if any, within India, would be bold enough to assign these investment phases as being successful. The reality that unfolded saw a vibrant end-market dominated by Chinese and Southeast Asia produced modules flooding into the country, almost regardless of nominal import duties that were contemplated in order to artificially inflate domestic cell and modules sales prices.

The two major rounds of capacity expansions have also seen different subsets of production equipment suppliers benefiting from the spending cycles. The earlier expansion phase was characterized by turn-key lines being supplied to the country. The more recent phase saw specific European (mainly German and Italian) and Chinese tool suppliers being chosen, almost in a carbon-copy manner across different companies/facilities, with much of the technology advice again coming from European (German) origins, akin to a remote turn-key design/consultancy service.

Virtually everything installed during these phases, and in particular the most recent phase, was unfortunately based upon Al-BSF p-multi cells, at a time when the signs were clear within China that billions was being invested into mono and PERC. Fast-forward to today – and aside from any other cost/performance benefits associated with Chinese manufacturers – India now has several cell fabs using yesterday’s technology choice. Part of Adani’s GW expansion was afforded to mono, and these lines can be regarded today as the most advanced across the whole of India.

It is highly unlikely that the same approach to expansions will be adopted within India when things start anew from 2020 onwards. Indeed, the entire way that investors assess factory cost and technology metrics has to move from passive-caution to informed-progression; being much more educated about solar manufacturing trends is simply a must if India is to succeed third-time around in creating multi-GW of viable cell factories.

Benchmarking and reality-checking is an essential start-point

It may seem obvious that any investor seeking to formulate a new multi-billion dollar investment should undertake good sector benchmarking, but the solar industry is littered with investments that have been done on the back of fact-devoid hype and through wholly misunderstanding the gap between R&D results and GW factory operations.

A similar narrative can also be assigned to investments that have stoically followed the status-quo of the day, by merely adding more mainstream technology, but in a different country (as India did exactly in its last expansion phase). It is not necessary to be a technology expert, but thinking that copying the current mainstream offering today – and taking 2 years to build a factory – will result in anything other than tears is simply naïve.

India’s new expansion aspirations come at a fascinating point in PV technology change, with the industry having shifted from 80% p-multi Al-BSF cell production to 60% p-mono PERC (with optional bifaciality) in rapid time. Huge investments are pouring into n-type technologies, with many voices suggesting that existing p-mono producers need to adapt to n-type production with passivated contacting at the rear. Others are pushing the adoption of heterojunction lines, if full differentiation is needed, and especially if the expansion is linked to greenfield projects, often the case with new market-entrants.

Even among the multi-GW cell producers of today, there is much debate, with few willing to commit fully to just one technology in the near-to-mid-term. Of course, each has a strong preference, and the market today has only just shifted to p-mono PERC being the mainstream technology offering.

This is entirely a new landscape for investors to absorb, and has evolved very quickly in just 12-18 months. Good due-diligence while having some kind of flexible technology route is perhaps the most sound advice that can be offered within the India context today. For others, simply having an exit strategy to avoid throwing good money after bad may be the most prudent strategy.

PV IndiaTech 2019 has been refocused to help decision-making within India

As the announcements have come out from government departments over the past few months, we have received increased levels of requests from the industry about focusing the scope and content of our inaugural PV IndiaTech 2019 event on addressing many of the questions raised earlier within this article.

Many have cited the need for a substantially higher level of awareness and knowledge from the new types of organizations and institutions that are currently hoping to benefit in the post-DCR world from 2020 onwards. What is state-of-the-art today for cell and module production costs and efficiencies? How flexible does production need to be for multi/mono and mono/bifacial? Is it essential to move direct to n-type or can a viable cell/module business be effected today with p-mono bifacial module supply?
And behind all this also is the need to understand the role of materials used in cell/module assembly, such as glass, backsheets, etc., and what is needed by way of test/inspection, certification and bankability due-diligence.

Clearly, a range of domestic and overseas companies from wafer-supply to module-testing fall into the target group of key stakeholders set to attend PV IndiaTech 2019. However, two other groupings need to both hear and feed into all the suggestions on how India needs to spend its money on building the multi-GW of new cell/module factories from 2020 onwards.

The first is everything-governmental, as perhaps the institution with most to win (and most to lose) through erroneous technology and supplier selection. The other massive input however comes from project developers, EPCs, O&Ms, portfolio owners, and asset managers. Like-it-or-not, these parties are going to have to get accustomed to site builds and ROI analysis, where a significant part of the owned/operated assets is coming from domestic-produced cells/modules. Those sitting with a near-100% portfolio of assets using low-cost, low-grade (by China standards) 72-cell p-multi modules are the ones with most to learn, and hopefully to benefit from if all goes to plan!

Agenda for PV IndiaTech 2019

More detailed information on confirmed speakers, partnering companies and other features happening at PV IndiaTech 2019 can be found at the event website here.

The two-day event includes 11 sessions, with 3-4 companies speaking within each session. The session titles are shown here now:

• Understanding India’s PV competitiveness through investment & foreign company participation
• Benchmarking how India becomes a PV powerhouse: state-of-the-art practices by global leaders
• Growing the domestic sector: Make-in-India as a global gold-standard in the PV industry
• Test & inspection, certification of bankability metrics for modules deployed within India
• Identifying the barriers for Indian PV manufacturing competitiveness
• Overseas technology-transfer: research labs driving high-efficiency & low-cost PV manufacturing
• Maximizing PV return-on-investment through components, materials supply & BoS optimization
• Production equipment & materials supply to Indian PV cell & module fabs
• Market-competitive & next-generation manufacturing technologies
• How do project developers, EPCs & investors operate effectively in a post-DCR landscape
• Returning value to the banks & investors: the importance of qualified O&M and asset management

There are still a few remaining speaking and partnering slots available for the event, and anyone interested should get in touch with us ASAP using the contact routes here.

An allocation of exclusive partner/organized VIP tickets has also been created, to ensure the event has the perfect mix of guest participants. Interested parties falling within this category should also get in touch with us as soon as possible.

Similar to our PV CellTech and PV ModuleTech events, the conference will be covered on our PV-Tech web portal. Much more to follow from myself and others in the team leading up to, and after the event.
 

India starts review phase on technology-selection for multi-GW of new cell and module facilities

Following recent announcements from the government departments administering India’s solar PV growth ambitions, the country is now in the process of working out how to expand its domestic upstream manufacturing capacity, at a time when the PV industry is going through a period of rapid technology-change and supplier competition.

Having been through various (albeit at reduced levels) manufacturing capacity expansion phases over the past couple of decades, it really is crunch time for prudent decision-making across both domestic and overseas investors, seeking to move India finally to manufacturing powerhouse status.

The article discusses the opportunity and challenges involved for India to realize the addition of 5-10 GW of new cell and module manufacturing capacity, now being spelled out through a combination of domestic content requirement (DCR) and manufacturing-linked supply-arrangements designed specifically to create a risk-free sales pipeline to stimulate multi-GW levels of annual cell and module production within India.

The timing of the government-body announcements over the past few months is particularly relevant to PV-Tech’s inaugural PV IndiaTech 2019 conference that takes place in Delhi on 24-25 April 2019. This article previews the conference themes, companies lined up to speak, and how such an event has the potential of educating not just the entire Indian solar segment, but also overseas investors and manufacturing/technology suppliers that are lining up to benefit from the capex uptick from 2020 onwards.

Understanding the drivers for Make-in-India PV manufacturing

India has a heritage in solar cell manufacturing that predates the first major industry growth phase, and well before the days of GW-level global end-market deployment. Government-owned and domestic-run conglomerates such as Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited and Tata epitomised early PV fervour: the JV cell facility operated by Tata BP Solar in Bangalore was at the time one of the most eagerly-tracked manufacturing sites of global industry observers.

Indeed, anyone glancing at MNRE’s compendium of cell producing companies in recent years can see almost all of the early cell manufacturing advocates still listed, despite the fact that very few are running lines today in any competitive manner.

Two other mini expansions booms have occurred within India during the past 15 years. The first one (dating back to before 2010) was stimulated by the goal of exporting cells to module producers outside India. The second phase was prompted by the National Solar Mission’s stimulus in domestic module supply to installers and EPCs, and was accompanied by the market-entry of pure-play module producers, some of whom expanded to the GW-level.

Few, if any, within India, would be bold enough to assign these investment phases as being successful. The reality that unfolded saw a vibrant end-market dominated by Chinese and Southeast Asia produced modules flooding into the country, almost regardless of nominal import duties that were contemplated in order to artificially inflate domestic cell and modules sales prices.

The two major rounds of capacity expansions have also seen different subsets of production equipment suppliers benefiting from the spending cycles. The earlier expansion phase was characterized by turn-key lines being supplied to the country. The more recent phase saw specific European (mainly German and Italian) and Chinese tool suppliers being chosen, almost in a carbon-copy manner across different companies/facilities, with much of the technology advice again coming from European (German) origins, akin to a remote turn-key design/consultancy service.

Virtually everything installed during these phases, and in particular the most recent phase, was unfortunately based upon Al-BSF p-multi cells, at a time when the signs were clear within China that billions was being invested into mono and PERC. Fast-forward to today – and aside from any other cost/performance benefits associated with Chinese manufacturers – India now has several cell fabs using yesterday’s technology choice. Part of Adani’s GW expansion was afforded to mono, and these lines can be regarded today as the most advanced across the whole of India.

It is highly unlikely that the same approach to expansions will be adopted within India when things start anew from 2020 onwards. Indeed, the entire way that investors assess factory cost and technology metrics has to move from passive-caution to informed-progression; being much more educated about solar manufacturing trends is simply a must if India is to succeed third-time around in creating multi-GW of viable cell factories.

Benchmarking and reality-checking is an essential start-point

It may seem obvious that any investor seeking to formulate a new multi-billion dollar investment should undertake good sector benchmarking, but the solar industry is littered with investments that have been done on the back of fact-devoid hype and through wholly misunderstanding the gap between R&D results and GW factory operations.

A similar narrative can also be assigned to investments that have stoically followed the status-quo of the day, by merely adding more mainstream technology, but in a different country (as India did exactly in its last expansion phase). It is not necessary to be a technology expert, but thinking that copying the current mainstream offering today – and taking 2 years to build a factory – will result in anything other than tears is simply naïve.

India’s new expansion aspirations come at a fascinating point in PV technology change, with the industry having shifted from 80% p-multi Al-BSF cell production to 60% p-mono PERC (with optional bifaciality) in rapid time. Huge investments are pouring into n-type technologies, with many voices suggesting that existing p-mono producers need to adapt to n-type production with passivated contacting at the rear. Others are pushing the adoption of heterojunction lines, if full differentiation is needed, and especially if the expansion is linked to greenfield projects, often the case with new market-entrants.

Even among the multi-GW cell producers of today, there is much debate, with few willing to commit fully to just one technology in the near-to-mid-term. Of course, each has a strong preference, and the market today has only just shifted to p-mono PERC being the mainstream technology offering.

This is entirely a new landscape for investors to absorb, and has evolved very quickly in just 12-18 months. Good due-diligence while having some kind of flexible technology route is perhaps the most sound advice that can be offered within the India context today. For others, simply having an exit strategy to avoid throwing good money after bad may be the most prudent strategy.

PV IndiaTech 2019 has been refocused to help decision-making within India

As the announcements have come out from government departments over the past few months, we have received increased levels of requests from the industry about focusing the scope and content of our inaugural PV IndiaTech 2019 event on addressing many of the questions raised earlier within this article.

Many have cited the need for a substantially higher level of awareness and knowledge from the new types of organizations and institutions that are currently hoping to benefit in the post-DCR world from 2020 onwards. What is state-of-the-art today for cell and module production costs and efficiencies? How flexible does production need to be for multi/mono and mono/bifacial? Is it essential to move direct to n-type or can a viable cell/module business be effected today with p-mono bifacial module supply?
And behind all this also is the need to understand the role of materials used in cell/module assembly, such as glass, backsheets, etc., and what is needed by way of test/inspection, certification and bankability due-diligence.

Clearly, a range of domestic and overseas companies from wafer-supply to module-testing fall into the target group of key stakeholders set to attend PV IndiaTech 2019. However, two other groupings need to both hear and feed into all the suggestions on how India needs to spend its money on building the multi-GW of new cell/module factories from 2020 onwards.

The first is everything-governmental, as perhaps the institution with most to win (and most to lose) through erroneous technology and supplier selection. The other massive input however comes from project developers, EPCs, O&Ms, portfolio owners, and asset managers. Like-it-or-not, these parties are going to have to get accustomed to site builds and ROI analysis, where a significant part of the owned/operated assets is coming from domestic-produced cells/modules. Those sitting with a near-100% portfolio of assets using low-cost, low-grade (by China standards) 72-cell p-multi modules are the ones with most to learn, and hopefully to benefit from if all goes to plan!

Agenda for PV IndiaTech 2019

More detailed information on confirmed speakers, partnering companies and other features happening at PV IndiaTech 2019 can be found at the event website here.

The two-day event includes 11 sessions, with 3-4 companies speaking within each session. The session titles are shown here now:

• Understanding India’s PV competitiveness through investment & foreign company participation
• Benchmarking how India becomes a PV powerhouse: state-of-the-art practices by global leaders
• Growing the domestic sector: Make-in-India as a global gold-standard in the PV industry
• Test & inspection, certification of bankability metrics for modules deployed within India
• Identifying the barriers for Indian PV manufacturing competitiveness
• Overseas technology-transfer: research labs driving high-efficiency & low-cost PV manufacturing
• Maximizing PV return-on-investment through components, materials supply & BoS optimization
• Production equipment & materials supply to Indian PV cell & module fabs
• Market-competitive & next-generation manufacturing technologies
• How do project developers, EPCs & investors operate effectively in a post-DCR landscape
• Returning value to the banks & investors: the importance of qualified O&M and asset management

There are still a few remaining speaking and partnering slots available for the event, and anyone interested should get in touch with us ASAP using the contact routes here.

An allocation of exclusive partner/organized VIP tickets has also been created, to ensure the event has the perfect mix of guest participants. Interested parties falling within this category should also get in touch with us as soon as possible.

Similar to our PV CellTech and PV ModuleTech events, the conference will be covered on our PV-Tech web portal. Much more to follow from myself and others in the team leading up to, and after the event.
 

SECI tenders 2GW of local content solar under CPSU scheme

Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) has issued a tender for 2GW of solar to be procured by Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSUs), as per its announcement at the beginning of this month.

This is part of the CPSU Scheme Phase II, which mandates cells and modules to be sourced locally, and projects will be developed on a build, own operate (BOO) basis.

The minimum capacity for bidding is 10MW with a maximum of 2GW. The deadline for bid submissions is 3 May 2019.

Projects have an 18-month commissioning timeframe, but a six-month extension is possible.

On 5 March, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) issued the CPSU Scheme Phase-II for setting up 12GW of grid-connected PV projects by government producers with Viability Gap Funding (VGF) support. Power generated must be for the self-consumption of government entities either directly or through distribution companies (Discoms).

In the case of this 2GW tender, usages charges should not be more than INR3.50/kWh (US$0.051).

The total 12GW capacity will be added over a four-year period from FY 2019-20 to 2022-23. 

Back in February, SECI also announced plans for a 1GW CPSU solar tender

The latest issuance comes amid an unprecedented tendering spree across India.

The inaugural PV IndiaTech conference kicks off in New Delhi on 24-25 April.

Indian solar tendering rolls on with another major co-located storage issuance

India has continued to fling out solar tenders with 1.2GW in Madhya Pradesh, 275MW in Uttar Pradesh, and a significant solar-plus-storage tender in Andhra Pradesh.

Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) invited bids for 1.2GW of Interstate Transmission System (ISTS)-connected solar projects in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, a state with excellent solar resources, but with less power demand than other parts of India hence the national grid connection.

SECI also released a notice of interest (NIT) for setting up 275MW of grid-connected PV projects in a solar park in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

The Agency also announced an NIT for 200MW of grid-connected solar projects to be combined with 300MWh of battery energy storage in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

This will include two 100MW PV projects, each with 150MWh of batteries at the Galiveedu Site of Ananthapuramu Ultra Mega Solar Park and at the Talaricheruvu Solar Park.

All the detailed Request for Selection Documents (RfS) for the three tenders shall be available by 30 March.

The latest news confirms India’s reignition of its large-scale solar and storage plans. Last week, after SECI announced a tender for 1.2GW of ISTS-connected solar to be combined with 3,600MWh of energy storage, Dr Rahul Walawalkar, president, India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) and CES (India), told PV Tech: “This is the big and long-awaited step and we can see that in the last four months the government’s seriousness towards the sector after some unfortunate cancellations of tenders for over 100MWh in 2017-18. IESA had strongly protested the cancellations and delays in implementation of the storage projects, and we are hopeful that this time, the government will prioritize these projects and see them through to implementation.”

Most recently, SECI said that another 2GW tender for solar to be procured by Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSUs) would be made available this month, amid an unprecedented tendering spree that seems to keep on rolling this month ahead of the general election.

Cabinet approves National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage

In related news, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved:

  1. Setting up of a ‘National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage’, to drive clean, connected, shared, sustainable and holistic mobility initiatives;
  2. Phased Manufacturing Programme (PMP) valid for 5 years to support setting up of a few large-scale, export-competitive integrated batteries and cell-manufacturing Giga plants in India.
  3. Creation of a PMP valid for 5 years to localize production across the entire Electric Vehicles value chain.

Both PMP schemes will be finalised by the National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage.

A phased roadmap to implement battery manufacturing at Giga-scale will be considered with an initial focus on large-scale module and pack assembly plants by 2019-20, followed by integrated cell manufacturing by 2021-22.

Debi Prasad Dash, executive director of India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA), said: “We welcome the cabinet’s decision on setting up of National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage. […] This announcement is the result of the work done over the past 6 years by India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) along with various state agencies, as well as central government departments including MNRE, MOP, and NITI Aayog on different aspects related to energy storage policy. The mission also suggested to have the steering committee with representation of 8 ministries & departments, which will definitely bring appropriate co-ordination on appropriate policy creation.

“India has a significant market potential for batteries and electric vehicles. Electric vehicles are creating a big demand and due to this demand, the cost of batteries will further come down.  IESA estimates the market for energy storage would grow to over 300 GWh during 2018-25. IESA is working with various EV & charging infrastructure companies through its MOVE (Moving Onwards with Vehicle electrification) initiative to catalyze the adoption through indigenous manufacturing of EV components. Currently, more than 10 companies are doing module and Li-Ion pack assembling in India and we’re expecting 4-5 large companies to enter cell manufacturing in the next 2-3 years. With appropriate policy support through this mission, Indian companies will be able to diversify into energy storage business. Through Make In India initiative, India will able to compete with the countries like China, Australia, Germany, USA, Taiwan, South Korea other Li-Ion manufacturing countries.”

SECI readies 2GW local content solar tender for public sector

Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) has said that another 2GW tender for solar to be procured by Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSUs) will be made available this month.

The CPSU scheme mandates cells and modules to be sourced locally and as per a note released today by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), the government will be keeping a close eye on early tenders with a view to possibly including ingots, wafers and polysilicon to the domestic content mandate in future CPSU tenders.

The 2GW tender, supported by Viability Gap Funding (VGF), will be released on 25 March.

Back in February, SECI also announced plans for a 1GW CPSU solar tender

The latest issuance comes amid an unprecedented tendering spree across India.

The inaugural PV IndiaTech conference kicks off in New Delhi on 24-25 April.

India solar tender spree continues north and south

Continuing a gargantuan tender spree, Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) has issued a notice of interest for 500MW of PV projects in Tamil Nadu, 750MW in Rajasthan, and several solar-plus-storage offerings in Jammu & Kashmir.

The issuances come alongside 400MW of floating PV tenders in Tamil Nadu (250MW) and Jharkhand (150MW). 

SECI invited bids for 500MW of grid-connected standalone solar PV capacity in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. A Request for Selection (RfS) document will be available from 15 March.

Meanwhile, the RfS for 750MW of standalone projects in the northern state of Rajasthan will go up on 19 March. A PV auction recently completed in Rajasthan attracted lowest bids of 2.48 rupees per unit.

SECI is also hoping to procure 2MW of solar PV across two army posts at Siachen and Parapur in Jammu & Kashmir at the far north of the country. The RfS will come online from 11 March.

Finally, bids have been invited for two solar-plus-storage projects in the Leh and Kargil regions of Ladakh, which is also part of Jammu & Kashmir state. Each project will have 7MW of solar PV combined with 21MWh of battery energy storage systems. Full details will be released on 15 March.

Last week, SECI also announced plans for huge tenders across the country with various combinations of solar, energy storage, wind and hybrid concepts, followed by a 1GW in the northeastern states.

© Solar Media Limited