India’s solar sector continues to grow, as seen in the inauguration of a new 2-megawatt PV power plant in the state of Punjab, the first privately owned, utility scale power plant in the Asian subcontinent. The Awan solar power plant was built in a record six months, having been started in July 2009, and finished by December.
The power plant situated in the village of Awan, Punjab, is fully built, owned and operated by Azure Power.
For the plant, 270W polycrystalline modules were imported from the US and China. These modules were manufactured from polycrystalline-cast silicon blocks coated with an anti-reflective substance which increases the conversion efficiency even at low radiance levels.
Each module measures 156mm×156mm, weighs 25kg and has a cable measuring 1,100mm. They have a unique design with drainage holes that prevent the module breaking in harsh weather.
The 2MW Awan plant has an anticipated working life of over 40 years. The Awan plant is directly connected to the local grid through an 11kV transmission line, which avoids loss of power during transmission and distribution.
Built under a 30-year power purchase agreement with the Punjab State Electricity Board, the Rs. 400 million ($8.6 million) plant will power 4,000 rural homes or 20,000 people. The solar PV field will provide electricity to approximately 42 villages around Awan, under a 30-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Punjab State Electricity Board. This PPA entails Azure to sell the entire power it produces at its Punjab plant to the state-run utility for 15 rupees per unit for the first 10 years and 8.93 rupees for the next 20 years.
The solar plant is facilitated by the Punjab Energy Development Agency and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
In addition to Punjab, Azure Power has already inked agreements with the governments of Gujarat and Harayana to build facilities that can produce a total of 22 MW. They are also coordinating with the state governments of Karnataka, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Rajasthan for another 30 MW.
Azure Power aims to build 100 MW worth of solar-based power plants in the next three years, with a total capex of about Rs 1,500 crores. The firm had raised $10 million from the World Bank’s International Finance Corp in March, and it eventually expects to float an initial public offering.
Funded by venture capitalists Helion Venture Partners and Foundation Capital, Azure Power may opt for further fund raising in the medium term, Inderpreet Wadhwa, the CEO said. “I think we are very well capitalised at this point, but I can certainly expect another round of funding in may be 18-20 months. There is a enough potential and there is enough demand and there is enough investment available out there to get to the numbers that India is talking about.”
Wadhwa spoke of his experience with reducing capex costs: “The first project we actually did was about Rs 19 crore per MW, the second project we are doing is about Rs 17 crore per MW, and we expect that prices would continue to decline, to about Rs 15 crore per MW over couple of years,” he said.
Azure is also setting up a 15 MW power plant in the state of Gujarat by November 2011.
The 15 MW Gujarat project, in partnership with US-based SunEdison, has a 25-year contract with Gujarat state-run utility to offload its power at Rs 15 per unit for 12 years and Rs 5 per unit for the remaining period, Wadhwa added.