• Electrical India
  • Dec 5, 2017

Ashish Khanna, ED & CEO, Tata Power Solar

The faster we provide the necessary support, the quicker it can become a serious contributor to nation growth and reduce its energy dependence on fossil fuel and carbon emission, states Ashish Khanna, ED & CEO, Tata Power Solar in an interaction with Electrical India…


Please take us through Tata Power Solar’s growth story.

Tata Power Solar is India's largest integrated solar company and one of the leading players in the PV module manufacturing industry in India. Over the last 27 years, we have evolved into a robust, pragmatic and integrated solar player and have been consistently ranked No.1 EPC player in the rooftop solar market since four years as per Bridge to India.

In the current domestic manufacturing sector, which is under pressure due to various reasons, Tata Power Solar has turned profitable within a short span! Our revenue increased by more than 2.5 times in just two years to reach ` 2,262 crore (Apr ’17). Our revenue growth has been fueled by ramping up the scale of business substantially by focusing on building state-of-the-art technology, engineering and strengthening on customer and employee satisfaction. We undertook significant expansion and modernization of our cell and module facility in Bengaluru.

As one of the largest solar manufacturers in India, we operate world-class manufacturing unit in Bangalore with a production capacity of 400 MW of modules and 300 MW of cells. We have completed more than 750 MW of ground-mount utility scale and over 150 MW of rooftop and distributed generation projects across the country. We crossed the milestone of shipping 1 GW of modules early this year. Last year in August, we successfully commissioned 100 MW solar project for NTPC in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh using our own domestically manufactured cells and modules. We delivered the project in nearly three months ahead of the schedule. We also commissioned India’s largest vertical solar farm for Dell India’s largest vertical solar farm at Bengaluru. Our 12 MW installation for RSSB Educational & Environmental Society (RSSB-EES) is the world’s largest solar rooftop installation at a single place. The project has been decorated with National Excellence Awards 2016. Most recently we undertook energy generation expansion for India’s largest car port plant at Cochin International Airport commissioning 2.67 MW of solar carport.

As part of the prestigious TATA group, we stand for safety, quality, excellence and total commitment towards our work. Our vision is to be the leading solar solutions provider in the country, delivering high quality and sustainable results to our clients. We are committed to enabling solar everywhere and bringing the power of the sun to people in the most efficient and cost effective ways. We do not comment on future outlook as it is largely dependent on market dynamics and policy support.

What is the current solar power generation capacity of the company? What is the manufacturing capacity of solar modules? What are the challenges faced by Indian PV manufacturers?

Tata Power Solar has completed more than 330 MW of ground-mount utility scale and 150 MW of rooftop and distributed generation projects across the country till date. As one of the largest solar manufacturers in India, we operate world-class manufacturing unit in Bangalore, with a production capacity of 300 MW of modules and 180 MW of cells. We offer a diverse line of solar solutions for both urban and rural markets.

We believe the domestic manufacturing has the potential to play critical part in the success of Jawaharlal Nehru Solar Mission. The sector has seen aggressive growth lately. India registered 145% growth in 2016 with total solar capacity addition of more than 5 GW. New capacity addition of around 9 GW is forecasted for 2017. In this context, it is an irony that while Indian solar sector is seeing explosive growth, the domestic manufacturing sector has not been able to take off. It is imperative for government and the industry to work together to address the challenges plaguing the industry.

• Focus on Quality: The Indian solar growth is being fueled by cheap imported solar modules. It is critical is to ensure quality is not compromised due to singular focus on lower tariff. Current reverse bidding has certain checks and balances, but considering the 100% upfront capex of solar projects and the long-term viability, it is critical that more emphasis is given to long-term quality and sustainability.
• Focus should be on Rooftop business: There is also merit in a concerted effort to build higher awareness among end-users as universal acceptance of solar is critical for it to transform into a more robust industry that is not dependent on subsidies and grants. We should develop a model for developers as well as discoms and considering the quality imperatives which are difficult to be checked by individuals, this sector should be reserved for Indian manufactured products.
• Boost to manufacturing: We are very committed to ‘Make in India’ initiative and anticipate more focus on developing strong and robust manufacturing sector. Not only can manufacturing help us in becoming self-reliant from an energy, but it has the potential to generate employment, boost exports and thus, bring forex and therefore, contribute to the overall growth of the economy.
• Investment in Technology: Indian Government has been instrumental in giving the much needed aggressive push to the sector in the initial phase. Now the need is to focus on building and strengthening the domestic solar ecosystem and technology which is the best suited for Indian requirements.

Solar has long way to go and if certain fundamentals can be rectified to enable a level playing field for the domestic sector, it can surely be revived.

The government has set the target of generating one lakh mw of solar power by 2022. What kind of opportunities will it generate for the Indian renewable energy sector?

The opportunities are immense in the solar space. As I have always outlined, solar industry can do to India’s future what IT industry has done to its present. However, for that to happen, the government should look at solar industry holistically and not in parts. While the focus is very high on generation, which is very good, policy should also concentrate on various other aspects of the industry. A lot needs to be done in the space of promoting R&D, innovation, quality focus, industry standardization (especially, in solar products). The government should also focus on ensuring a level playing field for indigenous solar manufacturing, training of manpower and easy access to capital. Solar industry still is at a nascent stage and needs policy support to ensure price parity and faster proliferation. We have to acknowledge that solar power will be a key component of our energy mix. The faster we provide the necessary support, the quicker it can become a serious contributor to nation growth and reduce its energy dependence on fossil fuel and carbon emission.

What are the accomplished solar EPC projects?  While accomplishing these projects, what technological hurdles did you face? How did you overcome the same?

Tata Power Solar has accomplished many noteworthy projects in the recent past that has won several awards too. One of the projects has won India Solar Week Excellence Awards 2017 and also Dun & Bradstreet 2017 Awards for successfully meeting an array of pre-defined project execution criteria around various financial and qualitative parameters.

Some of the other rooftop projects we are proud of include the 2MW rooftop solar system for Murugan Textiles in Tamil Nadu that helps displace approximately 2500 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per annum. We also commissioned South India's largest education sector rooftop project of 1.25MW for SASTRA University, in Tamil Nadu. Also, we won Dun & Bradstreet award 2016 for RSSB.

A very challenging and complex project we worked on in recent times is the south facing vertical solar farm for Dell India that needed to be integrated on the façade of the building without compromising on the aesthetics. The project, by virtue of its unique design, needed significant innovation and customization of the structures, load bearing characteristics and anchorage.

The grid-connected India’s largest car port plant required high-level engineering and designing skills for assembling the massive car port structures. The project comprised of putting together 8472 solar panels on 27 carports spread over 20289.9 square meter of area. It was important that to match and maintain the quality standards of advanced technology and design across the area. The modular design helped us to execute the project in a record time.

What is the target for this fiscal?

We do not comment on future outlook as it is largely dependent on market dynamics and policy support. We aim to maintain the growth momentum and sustain our positioning in the market.

What are your expectations from the government for this sector?

Indian government has been instrumental in giving the much needed aggressive push to the sector in the initial phase. Now the need is to focus on building and strengthening the domestic solar ecosystem and technology front. I believe that Indian solar sector is at its inflection point and we shall be conscious of the legacy we are creating. The focus needs to shift from falling tariff to achieve objectives, we need to consider the long terms perspectives like creating a captive consumption that can be reserved for the domestic manufacturers. With no awareness on O&M of the solar and limited ability to enforce contractual obligation for imported panels, rooftop segment has not performed on original targets. If this category is reserved for domestic manufacturers, it would boost order pipeline of the domestic players and quality adherence can be ensured. Further we understand that subsidy model is not a sustainable model in the long term. Investment in technology to the extent that it can compensate for the advantage garnered by subsidy is the key.
A sound policy framework that manages domestic profits, quality adherence, encourages employability (among all available source of energies solar has the maximum employability ratio and align alternative sources of energy with due consideration to the environment needs while catering to the country’s base load is the need of the hour.