Tata Power Solar eyes exports to European mkts

Written by Ajay Sukumaran | Bangalore | Updated: Dec 21 2013, 11:14am hrs
On the back of a drive to becoming cost competitive, Tata Power Solar is re-building its export market in Europe while aiming at some potential domestic opportunities from the second phase of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM).

The company, which hit a rough patch with the exit of BP Solar in 2012 coupled with the impact of cheaper Chinese-made solar modules, now expects exports to become a significant part of its volumes.

The company said it has managed to bring down manufacturing costs of solar photovoltaic modules by optimising procurement of cells while also making inroads into those overseas markets which were being handled by BP before its exit.

This year is still a transition year. But going forward, we think exports will become a significant part of our volume, Tata Power Solar CEO Ajay K Goel said, adding that a key question the company faced a year ago was whether it should shut down manufacturing.

It was not obviously the first choice. So we took on the challenge to figure out a way to make manufacturing really work for us. The stars look like aligning as the government has announced a domestic content policy and the export markets are better poised to look at Indian modules because Europe has levied anti-dumping duties against the Chinese.

Goel was brought in as CEO in August 2012 when the company changed its name from Tata BP Solar and embarked on a restructuring initiative. He did not disclose financials but said that there was good visibility of demand for the next six months despite the volatile nature of the solar market, which is still suffering from over-capacity.

In FY13, the companys revenue had contracted by 45% to R505 crore while its net loss widened to R83 crore from R19 crore in the previous fiscal, according to its annual report.

Tata Power Solar, which has a 125 MW capacity for modules, is currently executing a 50 MW project for NTPC and is hoping to bag orders from the solar mission in the next few months, said Goel. While its module manufacturing will be stretched to capacity, the company does not want to invest heavily into expansion without seeing a sustained trend, given the over-capacity in the industry, he added.

We will not add capacity in as significant a way as we have done in the past. We want to do it incrementally and we are also looking at OEM options, working with other partners who would build products for us, Goel said.

In October, the implementation of Batch 1 of the second phase of JNNSM was approved, under which around 750 MW of grid-connected photovoltaic projects will be auctioned. Out of this, around 350 MW will have to meet domestic content requirements.

While solar installations in India for 2013 are not expected to register significant growth over the previous year with delays in commissioning some projects, the global market is projected to grow at over 20%, according to a recent report by Mercom Capital Group, a clean energy consulting firm.

The preliminary estimates for 2014 indicate solar installations of 1,750 MW in India, including projects of 420 MW spilling over from the previous year, it said.