India, Russia Exploring $220 million JV for Solar PV Cells

The Indian government and Russia’s Rusnano are considering to form a joint venture to manufacture solar PV module-grade silicon ingots. The plan is to build a manufacturing facility in Russia where ingots will be produced and then exported to India.

While India has a number of solar PV module manufacturers, like Moser Baer, Tata BP Solar and IndoSolar, there are almost no producers of silicon ingots. Indian manufacturers import silicon ingots and then process them to manufacture solar modules. IndoSolar recently signed agreement $ 600 million with China’s GCL-Poly Energy Holdings to procure 209 million high-grade silicon wafers totaling 815 MW for the next four years.

Demand for solar energy equipment in India is likely to increase rapidly over the next decade. India has already launched the first phase of its ambitious National Solar Mission which aims at installing 20,000 MW of solar power generation capacity by 2022. During the first phase, which ends in 2013, installation of  500 MW capacity each of solar PV and solar thermal has been planned.

The Indian government has mandated state governments to source a set percentage of their power consumption from renewable energy sources. While the state governments have the power to decide that percentage, they must increase the share of renewable energy-based power by one percent every year till 2015. Some states with ample solar energy resources have set solar-specific targets as well.

The government has also launched a program to install solar panels on cellphone towers, advertising hoardings across the country which also represents significant solar energy capacity.

According to regulations, project developers participating in the National Solar Mission are mandated to use solar equipment and solar modules manufactured in India. Before the government unveiled solar energy policies, it was a normal practice for project developers to import solar modules. In order to promote domestic solar module sector, the government unveiled special incentives for module manufacturers. Several companies availed these incentives and set up massive production capacities anticipating rapid growth. But they still have to import silicon ingots from abroad.

The possible joint venture between Rusnano and the Indian government, could eventually help India set up indigenous facilities to produce high-grade silicon ingots which could reduce the overall cost of solar energy technologies helping them compete with conventional energy sources.

Image: Georg Slickers/Wikimedia Commons



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