India’s Solar O&M is Drawing in Large Global Players like NEXTracker
The more than 15 GW of solar capacity installed in India will require quality operation and maintenance (O&M) services, paving way for large global players to enter the market.
The following is from a conversation Mercom India had with Kristan Kirsh, senior director of marketing communications for NEXTracker, at the Renewable Energy India Expo 2017 in Greater Noida, India. NEXTracker is a leading solar tracking company in North America looking to expand aggressively into the Indian market.
Why is India a good destination for solar system component manufacturers?
We believe in the Indian solar story. India is the second-largest market for us after the United States. We have a massive investment plan for India and this is based on the growth that we have seen in India. In the past two years, we have captured 1 GW of the market.
There are over 200 developers and engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) companies in India, which ones are your preferred partners?
In India, we are working in collaboration with the Adani Group, ReNew Power, Azure Power, Greenko, Sterling & Wilson, Skypower, and Cleanmax Solar among other key EPC and developer partners involved in India’s massive solar growth.
You mentioned a massive investment plan, how do you plan on expanding in the Indian market?
We are already collaborating with the top players in the Indian solar market. Apart from that, we are investing in developing customized products for the Indian market so that we can bring down the cost without compromising quality. Another factor that is shaping our expansion plan is the growing need for O&M in India. We’ve also instituted an installer training program to help shore up some of the skilled labor required for large-scale solar installations across the Indian geography. It’s called the PowerworX Academy and we’ve trained over 200 solar installers so far in the country.
We find that this program empowers the solar workforce that will be needed to help India reach its target of 100 GW of solar installed by 2022. This local installer training program is developing a future workforce with the skills required to enhance the durability and quality of these long-term assets – which ultimately lowers O&M if the installation and electrical works are done properly.
Could you elaborate on how O&M is shaping your expansion plan?
We are focusing on O&M planning in India. In India, there’s over 13 GW of solar installed, not by NEXTracker, but think about it – what’s going to happen now that the 13 GW is installed. The money has been laid out [invested], projects have come up, how is India going to service these massive projects? That’s where we come in, we design products with ease of O&M.
We recently downsized a tracker that could move 120º to 100º. In India, 120º is not necessarily required, and we do not believe in compromising on quality to make products affordable. We innovated and came up with a quality product at an affordable price with our Indian EPC partners.
As you said, NEXTracker is working in collaboration with players in the Indian market, how do you think the anti-dumping case is affecting them and the market?
Everyone’s concerned; there’s been a general slowdown in the sector after over two years of continuous activity.
What are your thoughts on the Make in India initiative?
That’s a great initiative and we wholeheartedly support it. In fact, we have already set up manufacturing in India in collaboration with Apollo, a steel supplier, among other supplier partners. Our trackers are 80 percent steel and it’s a smart route to go with local supply chain, wherever possible.
What do you think the government can do to make it easier to conduct business in India?
There are some states that have more solar potential than others, and efforts should focus on developing the major portion of solar projects in those states as they would be more profitable and financially feasible.
Best practices should be introduced and enforced. States should work in collaboration with the central government for smoother implementation of policies and programs.