Solis to Take Its Solar InverterProduction Capacity in India to 20GW by Q1 2021_ Interview

In the calendar year (CY) 2019, Solis was among the top five solar inverter suppliers to India. The top five suppliers together accounted for 76% of shipments to the Indian market. Last year, Solis was listed as a public company on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, and the company said it was the first string inverter company to be listed on the exchange. Speaking to Mercom India, Honey Raza, Head of Sales at Solis India, shed light on the market trends, opportunities, and challenges that they are facing amid the ongoing pandemic.

Here are the edited excerpts from the interview:

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your inverter business in the United States, Europe, and especially India? 

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a drastic impact on the solar industry across each market segment. Across the world, there are challenges in the closure of sales deals for the commercial and industrial (C&I) segment and other co-occurring challenges of cash flow issues. Ground-mounted solar doesn’t have immediate financial implications; instead, there are other challenges like delay in operational commissioning timelines, labor shortages, and inaccessibility of mobilization. All the major markets like the United States, Europe, and India will eventually witness the impact by the third quarter of FY 2020. The effect may vary from 25% to 35% decline in the distributed market segment. Overall, the targets can be partially fulfilled if there is substantial support from ground-mounted projects. Industry leaders also are discussing the special stimulus package for renewable energy, which is the need of the hour for the recovery.

How are things in China, and how long will it take for normalcy to return in the country?

The recovery in China is fast.With all the precautionary measures and adequate resources, our factory is operating in full capacity. Yes, there is a decline in the installation in Q1 2020 as compared to 2019 of around 25%. Still, normalcy is returning fast. Until the first quarter, around 4 GW was added, which is satisfactory under this pandemic situation.

What are some unique steps that you have taken so far,and what are your plans for the near future?

We are following strict risk management protocol in six ways:

  1. Zero risk groups by constantly evaluating workers coming for work through bio-metric checks as well as daily self-diagnosis.
  2. Regular self-declaration contact tracing of workers for any possible visit from the affected area. Testing and precautionary measures for a better safety environment for employees.
  3. Full disinfection at regular intervals of all the facilities and crucial areas.
  4. Training and awareness for prevention and control are being conducted periodically.
  5. The cafeteria is properly redesigned, keeping the social distancing norms in place.
  6. Material management takes care of 100% disinfection for all the dispatches.

How do you see your business prospects for the remaining half of 2020 and 2021?

We are getting good inquiries, and project execution has also started. It all depends on how fast we can restrict the spread of COVID-19, followed by the availability of the vaccine. Certainly, we see some good deals in the third quarter and better figures in 2021.

Do you think COVID-19 has changed the way business is done forever? How differently are you going to approach your business in the post-COVID-19 world? 

Yes, it has. People are adopting digital ways of interaction that optimize resources as well as time. Employees should be trained and prepared to work remotely and follow procedural support. All the stakeholders should be addressed and given a transparent impact report for reinstating confidence in them. Business continuity plans during a critical situation like COVID-19 should be well documented and implemented. Customer’s problems, as well as weak support links, should be rectified.

You are one of the top 5 string inverter companies in India. What are your plans for the Indian market?

We are evaluating options available to support our customers, and the company sees India as one of the most promising markets with a long-term vision. The due diligence has already started, and consequently, the decisions will be exercised. This year, we have already planned to increase the capacity up to 20 GW, which should be completed by the first quarter of 2021. Dedicated to the needs of the Indian market as well as international requirements, we have developed a 255kW 1500V inverter, which is the highest capacity string inverter for utility projects. This product is accompanied with all the latest features and compliances as per the new Central Electricity Authority (CEA) guidelines. In the residential and commercial segments, we are regularly involved in providing storage and customized solutions to keep abreast of the state policies and make the solar projects more profitable. Some of these include zero export solutions for multiple and single inverter units; another solution in the hybrid range is lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries.