Locally Sourced Equipment, Skilled Manpower Vital for Resilient Supply Chain
Industry experts discuss domestic solar supply chain issues at Mercom India Renewables Summit
Despite the growing domestic solar manufacturing capacity, acquiring the right technology, equipment, and skilled labor remains a challenge as India tries to secure its domestic supply chain.
The government has initiated various measures such as production-linked incentives, the introduction of basic customs duty (BCD), renewable energy equipment manufacturing zones, and the (temporarily suspended) Approved List of Models and Manufacturers (ALMM) to boost the renewable energy component manufacturers in the country.
Ever since the pandemic, strengthening local supply chains and securing domestic manufacturing has been the priority for most sectors across the globe.
At the ‘Mercom India Renewables Summit 2023’, an exclusive event on April 26-27 in New Delhi, industry experts got together to discuss critical issues, opportunities, and emerging trends in the industry.
The ‘Domestic Manufacturing – Strengthening Local Supply Chains’ session on Day 1 covered demand and supply scenarios, opportunities, and challenges in backward integration and adoption of the latest technologies.
The panelists were Lalit Bohra, Joint Secretary at MNRE; Manjunath N Reddy, Founder & Managing Director of Dhash PV Technologies; Prashant Mathur, CEO of Saatvik Green Energy, and Puneet Gupta, Chief Technology Officer of Adani Solar.
The session was moderated by Priya Sanjay, Managing Director, Mercom India.
The PLI capacities and planned individual manufacturing capacities for the local companies have put India at the forefront of the solar manufacturing pipeline.
Bohra said, “MNRE plans to expand the cell side capacity from the current 3-4 GW along with the others. The PLI Tranche 1 alone has an 8.7 GW integrated capacity planned. For PLI-II, we have 11 potential players placed in different baskets other than integrated, which also has polysilicon facilities planned. We have 15-16 GW ingot capacity planned in the next 24 months, and we are clear that by the end of 2026, we will have a manufacturing capacity of more than 100 GW.”
The planned bid trajectory for the next five years indicates that the government is working seriously in that direction. With tenders being issued and manufacturing capacity plans in place, India will achieve 100 GW more than the targeted capacity by 2047.
Gupta feels along with the expansion plans, it is vital to plan the technology too. “PERC is a very mature technology, and N-Type is the next upcoming tech with TOPCon and HJT in the making. We have already picked TOPCon as our next technology and already have 2 GW of capacity under construction.”
“Adani (group) is aggressively working towards backward integration to manufacture polysilicon and other components domestically. We plan to have our 10 GW facility functional by the targeted date as mentioned by the MNRE,” he added.
Mathur of Saatvik Energy said his company plans to expand to ~3 GW of capacity by the second half of this year by adding 1.2 GW additional capacity. “We plan to continue to manufacture the 540-550W modules but also expand to the n-type modules with a new facility planned in Gujarat with 2+2 cell plus module capacities.”
Technology and Equipment
India continues to depend on China and other countries for new technology and manufacturing equipment which has slowed the country’s manufacturing expansion.
Reddy feels it is very important to build the supply chain and invest in R&D simultaneously while we expand.
“We currently depend on China and Taiwan for the semiconductor technology, which we plan to bring in by 2025 to ensure all the junction boxed are made in India in the future,” he said.
According to Gupta, if we continue to import Chinese equipment, India might not have enough knowledgeable engineers to commission them.
He said, “It is important for us not only to manufacture components but also the manufacturing equipment. In its initial days, China was also dependent on Germany and others for machinery until they built their own. The main challenge for us remains the polysilicon for now, as we have managed to cut the dependency on BOS components and cells. A polysilicon capacity of less than 10 GW will not make sense in a market like India, for which we need source silicon and electrodes used to manufacture silicon, both of which aren’t available in India. Fortunately, there are other players other than China who can supply us with that, but rarely can they meet the Chinese price. The world still needs China for now while India implements its pipeline.”
On the other hand, Mathur feels it is critical to train the available workforce to manage new technology.
“As the country moves from 10 GW to 50 GW annual capacity, acquiring skilled manpower continues to be a challenge. We are currently facing a challenge getting trained manpower, and we have to start looking outside the industry for people who are aware of the technology and can handle it with sensitivity and skill.”
Bohra said, ”MNRE regularly funds various R&D programs to ensure constant technological innovation in the country. The National Centre for Photovoltaic Research and Education (NCPRE) in India is as good as any international center, where extensive research on cell and module technologies is conducted. We also ensure regular training is provided to employees so that they are employable by the solar sector, so when we have the 100 GW capacity coming up, we have the manpower ready to operate these types of equipment.”