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Interaction | March 2014

The rooftop solar power policy announced by southern states is a welcome move

The domestic rooftop solar power policy announced by Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh is generating a lot of awareness and creating demand for solar micro power plants in India, feels R Sivakumar, Chief Operating Officer, Borg Energy India. In a tête-à-tête with Eliza Waghmare, Sivakumar speaks on the off-grid residential market for micro solar power generation.  

Borg Energy has formulated huge plans to expand its business in India. Why is the company looking so closely at the Indian market?
 The launch of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) by the the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy has set the policy and framework for launch of solar projects in India. After the successful completion of Phase-1, the mission targets to achieve 20,000 MW solar power generations by 2022. Various state governments have also announced their own policy for promotion of solar power in their respective states. As per the report published by KPMG consultants, the rooftop PV potential is estimated at 4,000 MW by 2016-17 as grid parity is expected to be reached for such systems. Thus, Borg is also tapping into the huge potential that the Indian market offers, with its technology, products and services accessible to Indian consumers. Today, there is no single branded product or solution for the solar PV rooftop market with own technology, PV panel and inverter products, as there are only system integrators operating in the unorganised sector. So, our company has filled this void. We have unleashed its innovative Astra+ Home Series products that are designed and developed in the USA, but customised for Indian consumers. Astra+ Series is a micro solar power plant with smart grid technology that can be put on residential rooftops enabling the consumer to generate his own power. The product has been already launched in southern states since April 2013. We target to cover 15 states including Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, New Delhi, Punjab, and Rajasthan.


How much business do you expect from the Indian market?
 Our company is targeting to provide solar micro power plants to 40,000 homes in the short term over the next five months and will target 60 per cent of the rooftop market consisting of domestic as well as commercial systems over the next five years. We will target the huge market for solar irrigation pumping solutions with our Astra+ Farm series products.


What kind of solutions does the company provide? Whom are you targeting?
 We provide a wide range of products and solutions including Astra+ Home Series, solar micro power plant targeted at individual households in four variants 0.5 kW, 1 kW, 1.5 kW & 2.5 kW and Astra+ Farm Master Series in capacity from 3HP to 25HP, targeted at the farming community. These products are made accessible to consumers across 15 states, through a network of master franchisees, apex distributors, dealers and consultants. Besides, we also offer a wide range of technically advanced inverter products as well as poly crystalline PV panels with turnkey solutions for capacity between 3 kW and 100 kW targeted at commercial and institutional clients.


We have also offered our expertise as EPC contractors for MW utility project with its Testla 1 MW solar power station.


Would you be interested in undertaking projects under the rural electrification programme in the coming years? If yes, what will be your total investment?
 We have already announced an investment of Rs 279 crore for the rural electrification programme with solar PV over the next six months. Borg plans to cover up to 35,000 rural houses in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar with exclusive products and solutions especially designed for rural application.


Does the company have any plans to come up with EPC projects?
 Borg Inc has expertise in ground mounted utility scale MW installations, offering complete turnkey services in execution and operation of these projects as EPC contractors.


We will soon execute MW scale EPC projects for promoters /developers on a turnkey basis with Borg's own high-efficiency crystalline panels and technologically superior performing Borg inverters and Tesla power station. Borg megawatt Tesla power stations are portable plug-and-play centres with state-of-the-art technology. It is very compact in size occupying less space as per international standards that evolved from a lot of research through our R&D team. Tesla power stations yield higher efficiency than the competitors in the market. Apart from this, we will also provide professional O&M services for all commissioned utility MW power plants.


Borg has committed an investment of $20 million for EPC projects in India. We offer to finance up to 70 per cent of project cost at a competitive rate of interest through our finance arm, 'Borg Capital'.


Currently, there is not a single silicon chip for solar energy been manufactured in India. Do you have any plans to manufacture silicon chips in India?
 Borg's manufacturing plan for India is for PV panels as well as assembly for electrical equipment PCU & inverters, and we have no plans to manufacture silicon crystals in India. Also, we are planning a production assembly line in India by 2015 and an R&D facility by 2016 towards Carbon Nano Technology. Both these projects will be at different locations, i.e., Delhi and Hyderabad.


What is your view on the off-grid residential market for micro solar power generation? What are your expectations from this industry?
 India is facing power deficit in most states, resulting in power cuts to residential, commercial and industrial consumers. Even where power is available, consumers do not get reliable and steady power at certain peak load hours. Off-grid solar PV solution is the most effective way to address this problem and will result in reduced power demand from utility power distribution companies.


It is in this context that Borg has introduced its Astra+ Home Series products, the first-of-its-kind in the Indian market. As a micro power plant, Astra+ will provide uninterrupted power in households, as well as provide the opportunity for huge savings in energy bills. Average energy saving can be 60 per cent and can go up to 100 per cent under certain tariff rates and energy consumption pattern.


Installation on a mass scale for Indian households is a challenge in itself due to lack of knowledge of solar power and its benefits among ordinary domestic consumers. Also, there is a big task to facilitate consumer awareness and advantages of going green with renewable energy sources and how individuals can become a part of the process in saving our Earth. The domestic rooftop solar power policy announced by Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh is a welcome step and will go a long way in generating this awareness and creating the demand for solar micro power plants.


As for our expectation from the industry, to grow the market and sustain growth, there has to be an appropriate policy framework at the national level with practical incentives offered to domestic consumers, going in for installation of solar PV plants on their rooftops. MNRE should seize the current opportunity with availability of technologically superior and reliable products, 30 per cent of unelectrified villages in the country could be taken up for provision of solar power that will be made affordable to villagers through unique business model of Borg and support such ventures with substantial incentives and other promotional support.


We have the shining example of Germany, which of date has total installed solar power capacity of 28,000 MW of which about 80 per cent comes from rooftop PV installations, mostly residential. This has been made possible by supportive policy and incentive schemes offered by the government from the beginning. India with average 300 sunny days and with bigger population base can go in for solar PV plants for residential segments on massive scale to reach the envisaged target for the country by 2022.


What is your source of funding for various projects?
 Borg Inc, Texas, USA, having acquired majority ownership in Borg Energy India Pvt Ltd, is investing $45 million over the next six months for Indian operations. This will include investments for electrification programme for rural households with solar PV power plants and EPC projects in Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh. There are no tie-ups for funding requirements with financial institutions.


The company has recently launched financial schemes for solar power plants. How beneficial will these schemes be to the customers?
 The company has tied up with reputed consumer financial companies in India to offer consumer loans to those wanting to purchase Borg products that can be repaid either over 12 EMIs or 18 EMIs. This option enables customer to pay an EMI from Rs 93 per day to possess Borg's solar power plant. This is a first in the Indian market for a product of this kind. The schemes are open to consumers across states, where products are launched. Consumers find it very convenient and helpful and are taking advantage of the option in a big way, to become the proud owners of Borg System.


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