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Corporates show interest in solar-powered factories

PB Jayakumar     July 12, 2018

India's industrial sector, very often plagued with erratic power supply, is increasingly resorting to a new method for solving their energy needs - solar power. Many leading Indian corporates and multinationals are now interested in installing roof top solar (RTS) in their factories or are relying on solar power to run their premises, say industry sources.

Cleanmax Solar, Asia's leading roof top solar specialist that controls 24 percent of the domestic market, has already installed nearly 450 megawatt in various factory premises. They include 250 plus top corporate and multinational customers like Tata Group companies including the Nano factory in Sanand in Gujarat to automobile, pharma, IT, food and beverage companies. There are half a dozen established solar companies tapping the corporate sector, as solar power prices have crashed to a viable less than Rs 3/kWh (kilowatt hour) from over Rs 5/kWh three years ago. "We have not tapped even five percent of the industry potential. Scope of growth is immense as roof top solar is not even 4 percent of the 20 (gigawatt) total solar installed capacity in India", says Sushant Arora, Co - founder, CleanMax Solar.

CleanMax, which had a maximum of Rs 13 crore revenue in the initial years, grew to Rs 65 crore and Rs 125 crore in subsequent years. Its revenue in 2016/17 was Rs 298.5 crore. Last year, Cleanmax clocked nearly Rs 1200 crore revenue, adding about 300 MW in a single year and 99 percent of that came from corporate clients, which include even reputed private universities.

India's target is to achieve 175 gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy by 2022 and rooftop applications are supposed to contribute 40 GW of the total 100 GW of targeted solar capacity. Various government schemes offer 30 to 70 per cent subsidies and credit of surplus solar power through net-metering in many states. So far, the installations are only just above 2 GW of rooftop solar and a lion's share is from the corporate and industrial sector. In order to reach the ambitious targets, over 9 GW of roof top installations have to be done every year, note sources.

Pioneered in 2011, Cleanmax Solar's business model is different from most others in the field. They spend from their own pockets to set up projects for the client, handle Operation and Maintenance (O&M), as against a long term contract that may last upto 20-25 years. The company has already attracted over $100 million from leading private equity funds. "Essentially it is 20-50 percent cheaper than conventional power sources and ensure reliable adequate power for the client, who can also earn by selling power to the utilities when their premises are not operating", says Arora.

CleanMax Solar also built Karnataka's first open access solar farm, a 30 MW facility in Tumkur district. It operates multiple solar farms to supply electricity to corporate consumers on an open access basis across the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, with a combined capacity of more than 60 MW.

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