Intersolar India: 4 GW park first step towards achieving 18 GW in a decade

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The Indian government has announced that it will invite bids for setting up a 1 GW plant by March – the first section of a total 4 GW park proposed to be set up in Sambhar, Rajasthan.

Speaking at the start of the Intersolar India 2013 Conference and Exhibition, currently taking place in Mumbai, Tarun Kapoor, joint secretary at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), said the project was the first step of an ambitious plan to build five so-called ultra-mega renewable parks, which would generate a total of 18 GW in the next 10 years.

Notably, the parks are all proposed in the desert wastelands of Rajasthan, Gujarat and the cold-deserts in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir.

The confab, which runs Nov. 12-14, is taking place against the backdrop of the recently announced selection process for 750 MW of solar PV projects under the Batch 1, Phase 2 of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM). The announcement of the Phase 2 was long overdue, and the industry heaved a collective sigh of relief after hearing the announcement.

Most of the discussions at the event have revolved around the selection process for Phase 2. Since most of the state policies were delayed, everyone is now looking forward to the new allocation. That does not mean that everyone is very bullish about the Phase 2 selection process, however. Some exhibitors and prospective bidders told pv magazine that they were skeptical about the Viability Gap Funding (VGF) mechanism which is being tried out for the first time.

Others were concerned that non-series players will bid for very low VGF, which will drive out serious players, whereas a few industry veterans were concerned about the increasing module prices and its impact on the whole bidding process.

Another concern related to the ability of Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) to find an off-taker for power in every state where there is winning bidder. Then there is also the issue of the 50% Domestic Content Requirement, which adds one more level of complexity for a prospective bidder. A pre-bid meeting is taking place on Nov. 19 where some of the issues are expected to be discussed.

The Intersolar conference saw lot of interest in the sessions on project development and construction of solar PV projects. More importantly, the interest in topics like operations and maintenance, design optimization and plant quality and reliability has increased remarkably from previous years, a signal that observers say shows that the industry is getting more knowledgeable and more mature. Rakesh Khanna, head of SMA India, said he was quite pleased that the industry had realized the importance of quality and reliability issues and has started discussing them actively.

Exhibition

The Intersolar exhibition started on a slow note, with the number of visitors on the first day smaller than expected as per some exhibitors. That was more than made up during the second day, when the footfalls to the booths remained consistently high throughout the day. The exhibitors at most stands were extremely busy most of the time.

According to Schletter, a provider of PV mounting structures, while the number of delegates visiting their booth was relatively low on the first day, there was quite a lot of interest in industrial rooftop systems. The second day saw some drastic improvement in the footfalls, with many visitors who were looking for novel rooftop mounting solutions.

ABB and Power-One had a big presence at the event, and both the brands had separate booths. Chanchal Bhatnagar of Power-One said that the second day saw some good quality crowds who were looking to set up plants in their factories and industrial units. What was interesting and heartening, he added, was that several of these visitors came from smaller cities and had started to explore solar as a viable option. He added that this bodes well for the future of the sector.

SMA India also reported a similar trend, especially on the second day when most of the visitors turned out to be very serious in their intentions.

Overall, after a slow start on Day 1 of the exhibition, the show gained significant momentum on Day 2, with many visitors from far flung areas that are still very new to solar. The general view from the exhibitors and the delegates was that while the quantity of visitors had dropped as a result of the policy and regulatory uncertainties, the quality of visitors had certainly improved, which was a clear indication of the maturity of the sector. The quality of visitors also helps in more meaningful interactions and setting up business relationships, they added.

The Intersolar Awards 2013 for India were announced on the first day of the exhibition. Winners included Barefoot Power, Chemtrols Solar Private Limited and L&T Construction.

The event concludes on Nov. 14.