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India: Tremendous Solar Potential

Astonfield Renewable Resources, one of the leading multi-modality renewable energy companies in South Asia, delivering affordable clean energy solutions tailored to the unique needs of communities in emerging markets across the world, has recently announced that they have entered into an agreement for the execution of Astonfield’s 5 MW solar power plant in Osiyan, Rajasthan, India. The Osiyan power plant will be the first utility-scale solar power plant commissioned under India? National Solar Mission. Sourabh Sen, Co-Chairman of Astonfield talks about India’s National Solar Mission and its growing market with InterPV Editor Sarah Jeong.

By Sarah Jeong (pved1@infothe.com)

 

 

 

Who is Astonfield?

 

Astonfield Renewable Resources was founded in 2005 by myself and my Co-Chairman, Ameet Shah. We started the company to help solve the rapidly growing power demands that we are seeing in the emerging markets of South Asia. Since we started the company, we have developed a healthy renewable energy portfolio of approximately 1,000 MW of which 45 MW is being fast tracked for execution under India’s National Solar Mission and state solar programs. We also have over 100 MW of biomass projects under development. Since we began this venture, we have established ourselves as a leader in the renewable energy markets of India, and we are now setting our sights on other South Asian markets.

 

Could you update us on India? National Solar Mission and its impact on the Indian solar industry?

 

The National Solar Mission will have a significant impact in shaping India’s solar industry, it brought cohesiveness to India’s solar policy framework. It is one of the most ambitious solar energy development plans worldwide and it clearly demonstrates that the government of India is strongly committed to developing the solar sector. As far as an update, we are awaiting the approval of the first phase of the Solar Mission and are ready to execute as soon as the approvals are released.

 

What are some of the unique characters of the Indian solar market?

 

India’s solar market is still in its infancy, but its potential is tremendous. With that in mind, I believe that the most unique characteristic is the National Solar Mission--this is the most aggressive solar mission in the world. Not only is a significant portion of India’s population literally ‘living in the dark’, but they lack the basic power needed to compete with the rest of the world. If successful, the Solar Mission could serve as the catalyst for the industry to leap-frog from the use of traditional energy sources to clean energy--such as they skipped over telephone land lines for mobile phones--and the solar industry is leading this drive.

 

Which segment of the solar industry is the most popular in India?

 

While Solar PV might be more common, I believe both solar PV and CSP are equally popular. Because of the diverse environments around India, there will be a need for both.

 

In your opinion, what could be a major growth engine for the Indian solar development?

 

I believe the success of India’s Solar Mission will be the major growth engine, and the continued population growth that continues to constrain domestic power sources.

 

What are the major achievements made in India in recent years?

 

Of course, the major achievement for India has been the development of the National Solar Mission. But there has been strong steps taken by the Indian leadership to get the Solar Mission where it is today. The initial Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) scheme for solar springs to mind. Individual states, such as my home state of West Bengal, had developed their own tariffs for solar prior even to the MNRE scheme to support the development of clean energy projects. It is the foresight of these early movers that paved the way for India’s robust policy today.

 

Please tell us about your ways to overcoming the challenges in recent years of global economic crisis.

 

It is definitely harder to raise a dollar today than it was prior to the economy taking a dive, but India has remained vibrant, and the renewable energy potential for the country is undeniable. This has made India a hot market for the global investment community, both private and institutional. With the release of the National Solar Mission, there is nowhere to go but up for the Indian solar industry. Astonfield has a strong pipeline and a world-class management team, as well as global leaders as technical partners. I believe we have built the best turnkey product in the emerging markets today, and as long as we stick to our strong core capabilities, the investment community will continue to see the promise in our story.

 

In your opinion, which countries would lead the global solar market in the near future? For what reason?

 

I believe that Germany, who is the current leader in solar, will maintain its leadership position at least for the next few years, followed closely by the U.S. who will quickly eventually emerge in the leadership position. If India executes on its National Solar Mission, India should be one of the top markets in the next ten years. I think the reasons are all the same--all the markets are policy-driven until the solar industry attains scale and reaches grid parity.

 

Please tell us about your sales strategy and some of your major projects.

 

We recognize that no one solution will fix the varying complex energy needs of emerging markets and that is why our strategy includes deploying the most advanced, proven technologies to fit the individual characteristics of each community. Through strategic partnerships with technology and engineering leaders from around the world, we are deploying proven technologies in solar, biomass and energy-to-waste, all at globally cost competitive levels.

As far as current projects, in solar, we have 800 MW of solar projects under development, of which 45 MW are being fast tracked for India’s National Solar Mission and state solar programs. We also have over 100 MW of biomass projects under development.

 

What is your future plan to be a major PV player in the global solar market?

 

We have already established ourselves as a leader in the renewable energy markets of India, and we are now setting our sights on other emerging market throughout South Asia. Our goal is to be the market leader in emerging markets worldwide.

 

Sarah Jeong is Editor of InterPV. Send you comments to pved1@infothe.com.

 

 

For more information, please send your e-mails to pved@infothe.com.

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