American solar technology company First Solar, which has been chosen for PLI scheme, will be starting commercial production at its proposed Tamil Nadu integrated plant by October this year. It will be run in three shifts (24×7) and will have 1,033 full-time employees besides 350-400 contractual workers who will be deployed for non-core jobs.
The company will be investing Rs 6,000 crore and expects to get the PLI allotment of Rs 1,178 crore over a period of five years, Sujoy Ghosh, country managing director, First Solar, told FE, in an exclusive interaction.
The company is building a 3.4 GW fully integrated factory at Sriperumbudur near Chennai and 60% of the proposed investment of Rs 6,000 crore has been spent on land acquisition, building and procurement of equipment. The US Development Finance Corporation has extended a credit line of $500 million for building the factory.
“The product that we make at our plant here will provide alternative to the China dependency of the end customers like independent power producers,”he said.
It designs, manufactures, and sells cadmium telluride solar modules that converts sunlight into electricity. Developed at R&D labs in California and Ohio, the company’s advanced thin film photovoltaic (PV) modules represent the next generation of solar technologies, providing a competitive, high performance, lower-carbon alternative to conventional crystalline silicon PV panels.
“We will be starting our commercial production at the Chennai plant by October of this year and then we will have a window till March 2026 for adherence to the PLI scheme. We will have to reach a point where we have to see that our products are up to the technical parameters prescribed under the PLI scheme, “ he said.
The company had announced the investment in India in August 2021. In November 2021, it performed the ground-breaking for the plant. “ It is on 127 acre industrial land at SIPCOT park that the plant is coming up. Most of the machinery is from the US, EU, Korea and Japan. This plant is a fully integrated one with manufacturing of semiconductor to module in one place, “ he said.
The company is in the process of hiring people for the plant and around 400 have been already chosen. “The rest will be done in three to four months’ time and our goal is to have 50% gender diversity in our workforce.” he said. The company will also be setting up a module recycling facility attached to the plant for end-of-life solar modules which will be India’s first such kind of recycling unit.
First Solar has already got 2 GW installed in the country through large independent power producers (IPPs) and power utilities which are its major customers. “We have a large base of customers in India who have been so far served from our global plants in Malaysia, Vietnam and the US. Our customers were importing from these three factories. As we set up this factory, we are in discussion with regards to the offtake from the unit,” he said.
He said that the company in medium term is looking at developing a local supply chain ecosystem. “Some of our global suppliers have presence in India too and that will be one easier way to set up supply chains by aligning with them. We will also developing the local supplier ecosystem, in PLI scheme, when you localise more you get more PLI,” he said.