Domestic manufacturers of solar modules are slowly ramping up capacities. India has a large-scale solar project pipeline of 53.6 GW, with another 24.1 GW tendered and pending auctions as of Q1 2021. The government is also promoting domestic manufacturing through various programs.
Vikram Solar is one of the top 10 suppliers of solar modules in India, according to Mercom’s India Solar Market Leaderboard 2021. The company has recently inaugurated a solar photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu to increase its module manufacturing capacity.
Mercom spoke with Gyanesh Chaudhary, Managing Director of Vikram Solar, to discuss the company’s plans and his thoughts on the existing policies related to the solar sector.
- What is the new manufacturing capacity that Vikram Solar has added, and what is the new total capacity now?
Our new manufacturing unit in Tamil Nadu has a 1.3 GW solar PV module manufacturing capacity annually. With this unit, Vikram Solar’s cumulative PV module manufacturing capacity reaches 2.5 GW, currently the largest in India. The company’s other manufacturing facility with 1.2 GW capacity is located in Falta, West Bengal.
- Are you assembling only modules, or will you also manufacture cells?
We have plans to expand the capacity to 3 GW of integrated module, cell, and wafer in the next five years.
- What is the technology used in the new manufacturing capacity?
Currently, the company is manufacturing mono and bi-facial solar modules with M6 solar cells and mono PERC technology.
The new manufacturing facility has forward compatibility with upcoming technologies such as M12 cell modules, high-efficiency bi-facial, and smart modules. The facility will produce mono passivated emitter and rear cell (PERC) modules with a peak output of up to 640 watts.
In addition, the new facility is equipped with high-tech automation, in compliance with Industry 4.0 standards. The facility’s state-of-the-art machinery and the convergence of digitization with manufacturing will give the company a competitive edge globally.
- Is the new manufacturing capacity fully operational now?
Yes, the facility is fully operational.
- How much was invested in this manufacturing facility?
We have invested ₹2 billion (~$26.86 million) to develop the new manufacturing facility. The company plans to invest around ₹50 billion (~$671.61 million) over the next five years for the company’s future expansions.
- What was the driving factor behind such a big manufacturing capacity expansion?
India is moving towards solar adoption at an incredible rate. We have seen exponential growth in the last decade, with 35-40 GW capacity addition. We believe that the exponential demand surge for solar energy coupled with a global call to diversify trade markets and supply chains present a huge opportunity for indigenous solar manufacturing. The pandemic provides a huge opportunity for India to shape an inclusive and sustainable economy.
The company is committed to enable India’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat vision and accelerate the clean energy transition. Our new capacity extension is aligned to the vision of making India self-reliant in solar manufacturing and capitalize on the opportunities both in the domestic and international markets.
- Are you expecting all the demand to come from domestic markets, or are you also planning to expand export activity?
We are supplying modules domestically and exporting our modules, mostly to the United States, Europe, and Africa. We export about 25-30% of our total capacity, and we see our supply increasing both domestically and internationally in the future. Our focus will be high growth markets with ample development potential – India, the United States, Europe, Southeast Asia.
- What was the reason behind building the facility in Tamil Nadu?
Tamil Nadu has been one of the early adopters of clean energy and has led India’s clean energy transition over the years. In addition, the state has created the right policy environment, business ecosystem, and ease of doing business. Further, the state’s well-developed infrastructure, railroad network, ports, and airports across the state, provide excellent connectivity, making it an attractive investment destination.
The company’s new facility is in proximity to seaports, which enables us to have faster and cost-effective transportation. Further, the finalization of any state for our manufacturing plans depends on the overall strategic goals and effective investments packages we may get from the state governments.
- Are there plans to expand into cells and wafers?
The company plans to add another 3 GW of integrated modules, cell, and wafer manufacturing capacity in the next five years, at the manufacturing unit in Tamil Nadu.
Harsh is a staff reporter at Mercom India. Previously with Indian Express, he has covered general interest stories. He holds a Masters Degree in Journalism from Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Pune.