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India: a bright spot in a gloomy global market

Indian PV panel manufacturer Surana Ventures plans to capitalize on the lower prices for PV panels – down by over 30 percent over the past year – by doubling production.

The company plans to increase output to 30 MW in 2012. Surana is just one of a spate of companies companies who have shown enthusiasm about the potential for PV in India.

Managing Director Narender Surana told Bloomberg that “the shortage in coal supply is a great opportunity for us as more and more people are looking at solar energy as a viable alternative.”

“As India’s energy needs rise, the shift towards solar power shall become more pronounced,” he said.

The Indian PV market has been in the spotlight after massive blackouts in July, which highlighted the 9 percent shortfall in electricity supply. According to some reports, this lack of power costs the country over 1 percent in economic growth each year.

But recently the government set a solar power generation target of 20 GW by 2022, a 20-fold increase in just a decade, and a manufacturing capacity target of 5 GW by 2020.

Photo Credit: Tata Solar

And while some of the country’s largest PV panel makers are struggling, other global firms see great potential.

Last week, First Solar, one of the world’s largest PV panel manufacturers, announced plans to build solar farms in India. The company aims to capture a minimum of 20 percent of the country’s PV market, and thinks that building what are essentially power plants, and selling the generated electricity to industrial and commercial customers.

The country currently has around 1,300 MW of solar capacity, which has been primarily through state-owned distributed utilities. But First Solar will sell power straight to businesses, enabling the provider to offer lower prices than the government utilities.

Tarun Kapoor, joint secretary of India’s renewable energy ministry, said last week that solar would reach grid parity by 2017. Considering the difficult worldwide market conditions, it will be interesting to see how India’s national solar strategy plays out.


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