Interview: Indian Solar Developers Need Accurate Data Sets to Reduce Financing Costs


Solar project developers can reduce the financing costs for their projects by obtaining quality solar irradiance data and accurate generation estimates, according to two executives at companies that provide these services.

John ‘Skip’ Dise, director of product at Clean Power Research and Ann Gaglioti, chief executive officer of GroundWork Renewables, recently sat down with Mercom India news team to discuss their thoughts on this and explain why their US-based companies are preparing to enter the Indian solar sector.  The following is an excerpt of that interview.

Can you tell us a bit about Clean Power Research and GroundWork Renewables?

Dise: Clean Power Research provides software solutions for the renewable energy industry. We are focused on areas that address the challenges in renewable energy financing by providing credible data sets that help investors, project developers, and independent engineers understand the value of their renewable energy investments. We work with our partner GroundWork Renewables to provide our products and offerings.

Gaglioti: GroundWork Renewables provides solar irradiance and meteorology measurements, equipment, and services to utility-scale solar projects. Our data is used to support the financing of utility-scale solar projects. We provide actual ground measurements while Clean Power Research provides satellite data and imagery. We provide data services for performance monitoring for both the pre-construction and construction phases of a project.

What are your primary markets?

Gaglioti: GroundWork is primarily focused on the US and Canada, but we also work in Chile and Mexico.

Dise: Clean Power Research is currently working primarily in North America and the Caribbean.

Why are you venturing into the Indian market now?

Dise: Our existing customers have pointed us in that direction. We have customers in the US and elsewhere who are invested in the Indian solar sector. Solar has been around for a number of years in India, but only now is the customer base increasing for utility-scale solar projects.

Gaglioti: A lot of price pressure has come into the utility-scale solar sector in India. We think that by investing a modest sum to use our services and data at the beginning of a project will yield returns many times over. By making an investment in our offering at the planning stage of a project, developers can reduce the cost of project financing. That’s also a way to make these projects profitable and viable.

Dise: This is already happening in the US. The value that our combined services provide makes solar project developers’ products more competitive, so they can viably run their businesses by selling a good offering to the procurer.

How does data quality affect project economics?

Gaglioti: Our offering provides insight into the reality on the ground. It measures the actual irradiance data of a project site. That data, combined with the satellite data of Clean Power Research, gives a true picture of the generation potential of a proposed project site. Both the over- and under-estimation of generation capability can lead to losses.

Dise: Project developers need to know how much energy will actually be generated. Investing in our services gives them a high-quality data set that can provide them with profits in multiples of the investment made in procuring that data. That has been proven in the US.

Cost is a big factor in the Indian solar market. How will you compete here?

Dise: We will move forward just as we have in the US market. We have created the best practices – the gold standard for this level of service. As I said, we have heard from our existing US customers that they are willing to spend on data because they know that it will yield a net return.

To compete, we will have to perform our due diligence to determine the best pricing for our offering in India. This is the best product available in the North American market and we are sure that in India, too, developers will see their profits increase after using our data and services.

Gaglioti: Currently, data available in India is not of good quality and is not usable by developers. Our data sets give us relevance.

Compared to the US, the Indian solar market is just emerging from its nascent stage. Do you think it’s headed in the right direction?

Gaglioti: Absolutely, it [the India solar market] is moving in the right direction.  The growth in the past few years has been fantastic.

Dise: The Indian solar market is blooming at the right time. The potential of the Indian market is greater than that in the US. The US depends on oil and natural gas and we do not see that in India. It is a great time to be in solar in India.

Initially, we saw a rush for project development in India, but now people are shifting their focus toward project quality.