Dan Shugar, Chief Executive Officer, NEXTracker
Please tell us briefly about your company and your India operations?
NEXTracker is very focused on the larger projects that are utility scale and projects through large industrial operations. We are the global leader by market share with 30 per cent share. We are manufacturing and shipping to customers in five continents and India is a top focus for us. I've personally done this over 25 years, and with the NEXTracker over the last two years. We have over a GW of supply, and in the process of expanding manufacturing capability now and working on new projects.
Actually India is a growing market. How do you see India in the Asian continent over the years?
India is not only the most important, but the most exciting market in Asia, growing because there is a severe need for power and there are a lot of factors that make it attractive, besides the need for solar to takeoff. I have been active here for over 20 years, but I think now with the support from Mr. Modi (The Prime Minster of India), the timing was great because the solar is so cost-effective. So, all these ingredients came together. Two years ago, we have started a small office in Hyderabad and expanded it. So, we've got a lot of design engineering done here to adapt our product to the local conditions and to achieve a spin in the leading technology for utility scale power plants globally.
What are the basic USPs of your product? India is concerned about price more than any other place. But, of course, now that quality has also become important.
The customers are sophisticated here. Yes, they demand low capital cost, but they are also very concerned about quality and performance. We are the folks who are delivering all those factors, and we are able to leverage our global scale. Our scale is much larger than a typical company, besides technology. And also our systems are produced for efficiency, for example we launched a very exciting feature for these trackers for Indian conditions - dust, particles or water vapour. The new way to follow the sun with these panels can produce 2-6 per cent more energy than a typical tracker. And that really helps the product economics.
So what is the approach? Is it a product approach or a service approach? Which means only supply and service approach or doing EPC also?
So it's a product approach, we do provide services like heavy support for the customers. But we are a B2B, it's our position in the industry. We are not doing EPC in India, we are supporting contractors and developers directly, and so we manufacture products very cost-effectively.
You are associated with a lot of EPC contractors directly and these are all particularly for Solar PV also or only tracker?
We provide it India primarily trackers today. In other places like the United States, we are doing battery systems now and we are opening other technologies to India. We think this is a very exciting growth market in India. The trackers are perfect solution because those customers need energy not only in the middle of the day, but they need energy in the early morning and late afternoon as well. We think that the tracker is very important there.
That means you want to use trackers for developing the first approach customer base and then build on it.
Right. As the market is in a very high growth phase, the need for just basic energy is really high and there's a lot of opportunity for solar, the timing is perfect for the technology to come in at such an affordable price. Later with more optimisation, batteries and technologies can be added.
Can you tell us about the reason for collaboration with Cleanmax Solar?
Cleanmax is a very interesting company. Instead of hitting on utility off-take they focus on serving end customers like corporate and industrial sector. So, we've developed a tracker project with them where we are serving some of the customers with the energy from that. Cleanmax is additionally developing a new project using 1500 volt technology we have introduced in India for trackers. Previously the trackers were of 1000 volts 3 years ago. Trackers of 1500 volts lower cost of solar power, the system is much more efficient, losses are low, the trackers won't close because the tracker is longer and the whole system is more efficient. Now with Cleanmax we are looking at that high voltage solution for the next big projects.
What are the projects that were undertaken in India as of now, and are there any in the pipeline?
In June, we have announced that we have 21 projects to be delivered to 7 clients, including Adani, Cleanmax, ReNew Power and Suzlon. We are receiving repeat orders now.
In India the prices of solar is falling because of solar PV prices declining globally and all that. How does India compare in the global context?
The India pricing has been very competitive. It's probably the lowest we've seen, because India is quickly pushing the scale through larger projects, the sun is pretty good and the top source of energy. What we've seen with more sophisticated clients is more discipline on pricing.
You are coming from a very developed country where the infrastructure conditions are very good. What is your experience in India?
We've maintained an office in India for a long time. We've actually worked so much by delivering projects in India and our local team here has provided local engineering and project contributions that have helped us outside India too. So, we put our technology in, but they helped us improve various other things.
Our experience has been that basically projects here have to be delivered very quickly and the product has to be extremely flexible. So, we were receiving a lot of orders in a very short span of time last year and everyone wanted the product at the same time because we're the larger provider globally we have manufacturing capacity in 5 continents we have hard pressed for time on our schedule with all our clients. So, what we gathered here is we need to make the product very flexible and easy to use, which is why we've invested in local capacity also supporting the 'Make in India' project. I think the way the policy has been pursued here has been very intelligent, because the scaling happened at the right time when the cost of the technology was competitive, and not too early like in Europe, about 10 years ago.
Do you expect any support from the government in terms of the infrastructure or clearances?
No, we didn't solicit anything for our manufacturing facility, we worked with local governments in terms of the basic logistics. So, everyone has been co-operative. We think there's opportunity if the government wants to - not for the tracker, the tracker is okay, but for the larger ecosystem of solar system of solar panels.
-BS Srinivasalu Reddy
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