The investment by Reliance will accelerate product and technology development for NexWafe, including the completion of the commercial development of NexWafe's solar photovoltaic products on prototype lines in Freiburg.
illionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries will buy a German maker of photovoltaic solar wafers and signed a deal with a Danish firm to manufacture hydrogen electrolysers as the oil-to-retail conglomerate acquired end-to-end technology for its multi-billion-dollar clean energy portfolio.
Reliance New Energy Solar Ltd (RNESL), a unit of the nation’s most valuable company, will acquire NexWafe GmbH for 25 million euros (Rs 218 crore), Reliance said in a late stock exchange filing on Tuesday. It will also license Stiesdal A/S’s technology for the hydrolysers, it said in a separate statement.
The deals come within three days of Reliance announcing two back-to-back acquisitions – a USD 771 million buyout of Norway-based solar panel manufacturer REC Solar Holdings and purchase of a 40 per cent stake in Shapoorji Pallonji Group’s Sterling & Wilson Solar.
The acquisitions and tie-ups in the new energy business put in place the initial building blocks of technology and expertise that Reliance needs to set up the four proposed Giga factories in the coming years.
The collaboration with Denmark-based Stiesdal provides access to technology for producing hydrogen electrolysers in India and this partnership could potentially be extended to obtain technology for fuel cells too. This completes the technology requirement for end-to-end solar PV module manufacturing.
Reliance said the technologies result in a significantly lower cost of production compared to existing technologies in the market (NexWafe’s wafers are 30 per cent less expensive than conventional wafers).
The company aims to spend USD 10 billion over the next three years in setting up an integrated solar photovoltaic module factory, an advanced energy storage battery factory for storage of intermittent energy, an electrolyser factory for the production of green hydrogen, and a fuel cell factory for converting hydrogen into motive and stationary power.
Electrolysers are used for producing green hydrogen (through the electrolysis of water). Stiesdal’s technology has the potential to deliver significant cost reduction compared to currently available technologies. Reliance is targeting manufacturing green hydrogen for USD 1 per kg in a decade compared to the current cost of USD 5 for the industry.
NexWafe in a statement “announced the induction of RNESL, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited (Reliance) as a strategic lead investor in its EUR 39 million (USD 45 million) Series C financing round with an investment of EUR 25 million (USD 29 million) in phase one”.
The investment by Reliance will accelerate product and technology development for NexWafe, including completion of the commercial development of its solar photovoltaic products on prototype lines in Freiburg.
“Reliance and NexWafe have also entered into an India Strategic Partnership Agreement, providing for joint technology development and commercialisation, at scale, of high-efficiency monocrystalline ‘green solar wafers’,” it said. “Reliance, through this partnership, will secure access to NexWafe’s proprietary technology and plans to build large-scale wafer manufacturing facilities in India using the NexWafe processes and technology.”
NexWafe is developing and producing monocrystalline silicon wafers grown directly from inexpensive raw materials, going directly from the gas phase to finished wafers.
This proprietary process obviates the need for costly and energy-intensive intermediate steps such as polysilicon production and ingot pulling on which traditional wafer manufacturing relies.
Other investors joining Reliance in the Series C Round include InnoEnergy, Lynwood, Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures and other incumbent and new investors, adding another nearly EUR 10 million ($12 million) to the round.
Ambani, Chairman of Reliance, said the partnership with NexWafe is a step towards meeting the affordable green energy needs of India’s rapidly growing economy.
“Our investment in NexWafe signals an important step towards accelerating India’s green energy transition and positioning India as a global leader in photovoltaic manufacturing,” he said.
“We believe NexWafe’s innovative ultra-thin wafer will give solar manufacturers a significant advantage over existing photovoltaic technologies, helping consumers in India and globally realise the benefits of solar energy more quickly and more efficiently.”
On tie-up with Stiesdal, Ambani said Reliance aims to leverage the firm’s impressive portfolio of climate technologies to serve the Indian market and work together to make this portfolio a global pace-setter. “In partnership with Stiesdal, we will strive to achieve our stated goal of offering Hydrogen energy under USD 1 per kg in 1 decade the 1-1-1 target for green hydrogen,” he said.