The Mahindra group, which forayed into the solar power sector three years ago, said it could add another 500 megawatts (Mw) over the next 24-36 months. This opportunity, however, was not restricted to the projects it had won under the tariff-based bidding as part of the National Solar Mission, the company added. The group has two projects, of 5 Mw and 33 Mw, under the National Solar Mission. “We are looking at off-grid products using solar in rural areas, and we believe that solar products can replace or supplement several applications, which currently run on gensets,” said Parag Shah, managing partner at Mahindra Partners and head of Mahindra CleanTech. The company plans to leverage its strong presence in rural areas, thanks to its tractor and farm equipment business. The off-grid solar business will include solar products such as solar irrigation pumps, solar lights, solar water purifiers, and lanterns. “We have already launched two products and working on others,” said Shah.
It recently received a bulk order from an undisclosed telecom tower company to provide solar power to towers, which are now run on diesel. Mahindra is also looking to orders to execute engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of solar power. The company has plans to set up solar power charging points for its recently-launched electric car, e2o. “In addition to being green, using solar power can also cut down a lot of pilferage,” said Basant K Jain, chief executive officer of Mahindra EPC & Solar. The EPC company has already set up as much as 65 Mw and hopes to bag orders to execute as much as 600-800 Mw in three years. According to Jain, there are many such opportunities where companies and organisations are looking for expertise to set-up and maintain solar power projects.
The company is also looking at private-power-purchase agreements (PPP) to set up rooftop solar power installations for private companies. “The real market is in the rooftop. Solar power on grid can see saturation or might have land constraints, but not for rooftop,” said Jain. However, the price structure for solar power on rooftops could be higher as it requires customisation for each product. Even so, many corporates which have green agenda like public sector utilities, institutions and corporates too are looking at solar. The group’s real estate venture, Mahindra Life Spaces, might be looking an extended rooftop projects. “There could be microgrids in rural areas as well,” said Jain. The opportunity only for EPC in solar could be as high as 1,000 Mw in another three years. Going forward, solar power is likely to play a larger role in grid connected power, as many states are taken to task for not fulfilling their renewable power obligations. Once the norms for buying renewable power are clear, there would be more solar power flow to the grid. “Solar is at a tipping point in its lifecycle and the government is making several efforts to help it succeed and help India’s energy security,” said Shah. Solar power price has also changed, said the company. Before the tariff-based bidding came into play three years ago, solar power was being sold at Rs 17.9 a unit. The bids recently were as low as Rs 7 a unit. “There has been a substantial drop in the capex for solar power as well,” said Shah.