The last one week, I was really jet-setting. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, as one of the planes I went by was actually an ATR propeller plane 🙂
Turning serious, what was really interesting about the trip was that I was able to meet a whole lot of solar industry participants, especially PV. I met two large companies that are into solar PV cells, two solar module manufacturers, one system integrator who has already put up one of the first solar PV power plants in the country, and two consultants in the solar PV industry both of whom had long experience in this industry.
While I had met each of them for different reasons, I was keen on understanding from them the status and trends in the module making standalone sector (about those companies which made only modules but not cells). I was especially keen on knowing how these companies were doing in terms of their capacity utilization, marketing channels, profit margins and their future prospects as stand-alone module makers.
As many of you will know, setting up a PV module making unit is much less capital intensive than setting up a cell manufacturing company (cell = $1.25 million/MW; module = $0.15-0.2 million/MW , approximately). Unlike cells, which require sophistication production technologies and machineries, module making is more of an assembly job. As a result, while there are just about 7-8 cell manufacturers, there are over 25 PV module makers in the country, many of them operating in scales of less than 25 MW per year.
As you might have guessed, all the solar cell manufacturers also have a module making capacity.
While PV module makers are present all over India, one can see a particular concentration in Hyderabad, and perhaps followed by Bangalore and its environs.
Until I met a few module makers last week, I was under the impression that many of these blokes were doing a pretty much of contract assembly – that is, they bought the cell from a company in a high wage country such as Germany and sold the module back to the company. I thought it’d have been difficult for these companies to manage the marketing of these modules directly to the end user or close to end user viz., solar power plants and solar rooftop panel installers.
To my pleasant surprise, I came to know that many of the module making companies are indeed selling to power plants and rooftop panel installers in countries such as Germany, Italy and some even in the US. I do not have more precise statistics at this stage, and it is quite possible that some of the module makers are indeed doing a contract assembly, but it appears that that is not a majority.
So, these were some of the observations and info I collected on the Indian solar PV module producers. I hope to update this blog post once I have more data on these companies.