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At a global level, the c-Si wafer industry is dominated by a few companies (LDK solar, REC, GCL Poly, MEMC, Yingli Energy and Renesola) sharing over 80% of the market. There are however, many smaller companies fighting for share and market consolidation is already underway.  Indian however has been lagging behind in the solar upstream for quite some time now due to lack of attractive policy support and a general lack in industry interest. This scenario is changing with companies such as Lanco solar, Bhaskar solar  etc., making significant strides in the solar PV upstream manufacturing segment. In 2011, Carborundum Universal and Yash Birla Group have also announced their  interest and plans for setting up silicon ingot and wafer industry in India.

Lanco Solar Private Limited (LSPL) is setting up manufacturing facility to produce 1250 Ton/ year of polysilicon and 80 MWp of Ingots and Wafer at Cuttack, Orissa. Orissa Government have cleared the project, which is being developed in a 250 acre (in possession by LSPL) SEZ for which the Orissa State Government and the Government of India have accorded their formal approval for SEZ. GRIDCO has agreed to provide power at a subsidized price and Orissa state water resources department has agreed to provide LSPL with the water needed to meet the plants requirements. Having set up Indias first integrated solar manufacturing facility, LSPL is well placed to emerge as a leader in the upstream solar PV manufacturing in India.

Ideally, LSPL is looking to build a complete solar PV ecosystem by itself rather than being strong at one part of the value chain. It is therefore obvious that the wafers and cells produced by LSPL will not be available for the Indian Cell and Module companies. The demand for wafers and the market would still be wide open even though LSPL is showing signs of becoming the market leader.

Bhaskar Silicon Private Ltd (Bhaskar Solar Power) is expected to start operation of its INR 5000 Crore worth polysilicon and wafer-processing facility in West Bengal’s industrial township Haldia in 2012. The unit will have a 2,500 tonnes of polysilicon per annum (production capacity) capable of generating 250 MW (mega-watt) of multicrystalline wafers.

SREI Infrastructure has picked up stake in Bhaskar silicon and international financial institutions like KFW and DEG are expected to invest in the project. The company is also planning to come out with an IPO of Bhaskar Silicon in India and abroad.  . It is expected that international technology giants such as Perseus of USA and Centrotherm of Germany may pick up participatory stakes in the project. As a part of the project, Bhaskar Solar has also proposed to set up a 400 MW captive power production for its manufacturing facility. Since Bhaskar Silicon is also likely to use the wafers for their captive requirements, it is highly unlikely that their production could cater to the increasing demands in the Indian market.

Other than LSPL and Bhaskar, the only other company which at least makes news, if not wafers, is Maharishi Solar which has complete Vertical Integration, and is known to be present across the entire PV Value Chain, from manufacturing solar grade polysilicon and Ingots to Wafers, Cells, Modules & systems. But the company has not shown any signs of ramping up production even though the market for solar is booming in India.

Carborundum Universal Limited, a part of the Chennai-based industrial conglomerate Murugappa Group (manufacturing abrasives, ceramics and super refractories) is looking for joint ventures to foray into renewable energy materials manufacturing. The company already has a 25-acre central government approved renewable energy SEZ (special economic zone) in Kerala, and is presently seeking approvals from stakeholders to set up a couple of joint ventures to set up wafer and polysilicon manufacturing facility. At present, the company supplies micro silicon carbide powder used in silicon wafers. However much of information about the project is yet to be revealed since the proposal is subject to various approvals. Given the company’s strength in material science, it is well positioned to supply products addressing these industry segments and therefore these activities can be conveniently and advantageously combined with the existing business of the company.

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