India has a unique need to balance the need for competitive pricing and advanced technologies to reduce the levelized cost of energy.
The rest of the world has adopted larger size modules (M10 and M12), bifacial, n-type, and TopCon. But in India, monocrystalline and polycrystalline modules still dominate the growing market.
Monocrystalline occupied a significant market share in 2021, while technologies like thin-film, bifacial, and HJT make up around 2%.
Mercom India hosted a webinar, ‘Module Technologies That Will Dominate the Indian Solar Market,’ to discuss the trends, expectations, and appetite of the Indian market for various module technologies and forecast for the coming year.
The panelists presented their views on the growing demand for module technologies and the way forward for module manufacturing in India.
The panelists included Amit Barve, Business Unit – Head of Solar, Panasonic Life Solutions India; Arijit Mitra, Deputy General Manager, LONGi Solar; Nitin Kumar Thakurta, Head of Procurement, Enel Green Power and C V Kannan, Assistant Vice President of R&D, Adani Solar. The session was moderated by Priya Sanjay, Managing Director of Mercom India.
Indian Solar Module Market
Speaking about the slow adoption of technology in India, Barve said, “The technology adoption rate in the Indian market has always lagged behind the world. There is a lag of three to six months in picking up the latest technology. The price of the modules will remain a dominant factor as far as the buying pattern in India is concerned. Import of advanced technology modules will no longer be competitive with the basic customs duty implemented from April 1.”
“The pace at which the technology has evolved in the last five years is unprecedented, and it will give rise to a lot of complex situations for the early adopters. A manufacturer deeply involved in the value chain faces a resource crunch when catching up with the technology change. There is little emphasis on R&D since the Indian supply chain ecosystem is not very developed,” he added.
Providing an international take on the Indian market, Arijit Mitra said, “Being an international manufacturer, we cannot strategize pricing based on the Indian market because it’s merely 5% of our business across the globe. We are present in almost 64 countries, and we will have to strategize our price based on the supply scenario of the raw materials. We see what technology we are working on and how sustainable and scalable they are. Scalability is important in module manufacturing; prices are completely dependent on economies of scale.”
“P-type perc technology is the popular technology currently. In 2022, bifacial is expected to increase in popularity in the Indian market. Many of the utility-scale developers are accepting bifacial,” he added.
Nithin Thakurta said, “Many companies are exploring new technologies, and we will see a lot of brand adoption in India. Mono PERC, however, will continue to dominate the market in the near future. “
Talking about their company’s approach in the module manufacturing segment, Kannan said, “In 2015, when Adani started solar module manufacturing, we invested in technologies like PERC, bifacial and n-type products. The strategy is to keep an eye on and prepare for future technologies like Topcon and HJT and upgrading the manufacturing lines. Investments are needed to adapt to the future technologies.”
The Mono-Perc Dominance
Talking about the use of mono PERC modules in India, Amit Barve said, “Mono PERC will dominate, and polycrystalline will remain for the next one or two years. All new technologies like HJT and Topcon will enter the market but will not have a significant market share to displace poly in the next 1-2 years.”
Thakurta concurred. “Mono PERC will continue to dominate the market in the near future as adoption of new technologies is slow.”
Kannan added, “Mono PERC will dominate for another two to three years because of the cost advantage. Limitations like LID (Light-induced degradation) have reduced from 2% to 1%. Bifacial technology has come into the market with a 60% bifacial score, and it has increased year over year. Currently, it’s around 70%-75%.”
Mitra said, “Mono PERC will dominate for the next two years, and the market share of bifacial will increase with time. Utility-scale customers want a better product and price that suits their budget. Even if bifacial costs higher, they will buy it because it might bring in a marginal gain on the CAPEX spent. The adoption of various technologies will depend upon the manufacturing costs and scalability.”
Addressing the challenges in the Indian sector, Barve said, “For an international supplier, the regulations of ALMM, import duties are the biggest challenges. For domestic suppliers, the availability and prices of raw materials and shipping costs are challenges. But the greatest challenge is matching the customer expectation on pricing. My only suggestion is that there is enough market for everyone, and there is no need to undercut each other. The healthy way is to keep all stakeholders profitable so that the industry grows well. There are ample opportunities in India and worldwide.”
Kannan said, “One of the major challenges is certification. Because technologies are changing and every small change in the modules needs certification, this process takes time, and to avoid them, manufacturers use slightly inferior or outdated products.”
Mitra said, “The government should have timed BCD better and should have given time for Indian manufacturers to scale. Proper cell and wafer manufacturing should have been in place before implementing BCD. There are many regulations that push the industry back by not adopting the latest technology on time. One of our latest products that we ship to Bangladesh needs another 6-8 months before coming to India because the BIS certification process takes time. Regulations should step up so that the speed at which modules get certified increases. Our renewable energy goals will be difficult to achieve with only Indian manufacturers in the market.”
Satish Shetty is a Copy Editor with Mercom India. Prior to Mercom, Satish was a multimedia news producer at Reuters, where he gained experience in digital news media. Satish has his Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in Broadcast Journalism from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, Malaysia.
More articles from Satish Shetty.