Buoyed by the better-than-expected growth in India, world’s largest photovoltaic module and solar panel company Trina Solar Limited is considering setting up a cell and module factory in Visakhapatnam, a senior executive of the Chinese company told dna in an exclusive interview.
The company has already signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Andhra Pradesh government for this.
“Yes, we are looking at a manufacturing possibility (in India). We are doing a feasibility study. Actually, we have already identified the land in Visakhapatnam but we are still discussing the solar market in India. We are looking at what will be the cost of the product and where do we sell it. We already have a MoU signed with the AP government (for this),” said Helena Li, president – Asia Pacific and Middle East – Trina Solar.
She said the global solar panel major would look at building 700 megawatt (mw) capacity for solar cells and 500 mw capacity for solar modules in the first phase. She estimated the cost for such a factory to be roughly around $200-300 million.
Li said the company was currently evaluating what would be the right time and cost for it.
“If you are going to build (solar) panels in India, you need the whole supply chain here to be as competitive as we are in China,” she said.
Trina Solar, which has been around since 2010 in India, has already captured around 17% market share with over 1 gigawatt (gw) cumulative shipment of solar modules to India last year.
Li said the pace of growth in the Indian solar market has exceeded the company’s expectation. Trina is expecting to double its growth rate in the current year with a 2 gw solar modules shipment.
As per the ministry of new & renewable energy (MNRE), India had reached a capacity of 5.8 gw as on March 2016. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has set a target of 100 gw solar power by 2022. India is today one of the fastest growing solar markets in the world. From being an emerging market for solar energy some years back, it has moved to being the fourth largest market in the world.
Li said the biggest challenge in India is keeping the cost low as India was very “price-sensitive”. She said Trina did not want to rely on government subsidy as that will compel it to source from raw material and parts from local suppliers and make it uncompetitive in terms of cost.
At present, Trina has factories in Thailand and Malaysia but the panels produced there are not as cost competitive as China. However, since the products from these places are sold in the US and Europe markets, where the solar tariff is high, they become commercially viable. Li said the Indian plant would cater to the domestic demand.
To overcome the problem of an underdeveloped ecosystem in India, the Chinese company was looking at whether they could influence its suppliers in China to come to India with them.
“We have a very good partnership with our suppliers. We are hoping to influence them to come to India. We’ll probably take some risk by investing more but if they come with us to support our factory (in India) it will help other local manufacturers too,” she said.