BW Businessworld

Let's Track The Sun!

Dan Shugar, CEO, NEXTracker discusses its venture in India in an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld and explained this innovative technology of solar tracking

With a gigantic push towards the renewable and the market growing robustly, many foreign players are looking at India as an attractive market. India today stands amongst the top 5 fastest growing solar markets in the world with global giant's stepping up to usher in the locally manufactured world class technology.

Being in the solar space for around 30 years now, Dan Shugar, CEO, NEXTracker, a US-based solar tracker and energy solar giant, discussed its venture in India in an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld and explained this innovative technology of solar tracking.

Dan enthusiastically begins by saying, "India is the most exciting solar market in the world!"

On his recent visit to India, NEXTracker made the announcement of manufacturing additional structural components of its solar tracking systems locally in India by augmenting its existing partners APL Apollo Tubes along with four other local steel fabricators. By partnering with local companies that can offer high quality steel, the firm would be able to build the bulk of its solar trackers in India.

"We have already worked to have our foundations in India. With this next step to manufacture the tubes, the plan is to get it operational by this summer. The good part is that the Apollo is already set up in various parts of the country. So we would be bringing our proprietary product and processes in the country". After the component manufacturing facility comes in India, Dan says over 80% of the product by weight and volume would be localised from existing 25%.

Trackers direct solar panels or modules toward the sun. These devices change their orientation throughout the day to follow the sun's path to maximize energy capture. The solar tracker market in India is still at a very nascent stage with not many local producers. The cost of solar trackers is typically 8-10 per cent of the total project cost of a solar power generation facility and developers are increasing the use of trackers to reduce costs and improve the financial viability of their projects.

The NEXTracker's manufacturing push may force domestic tracker makers to realign prices accordingly. Dan believes that it would usher in the competition in the industry which would ultimately tickle down to the customer. "Competition is good and we support a vibrant industry. Having a robust set of companies is always a good thing", says Dan.

Tasked with installing 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022, there is a raft of opportunities for companies to operate in large scale PV in India. NEXTracker, which was acquired by the fortune 500 company Flex last year, wants to cash on to these opportunities and have already begun to spread its presence across the country.

Increasingly the customer is focussed on lowering the cost of energy from the solar and the tracker helps them get the maximum out of the facility. "We did the largest tracker in India, rather in Asia with Adani in Punjab and we are seeing a very vibrant growth in variety of regions in India. We are serving 20 active projects today in India with 6 major customers in the industry".

On the question of any additional government support or subsidy to remain competitive in the tracker market, Dan says, no. "We have not applied for any subsidy or help from the government for this particular initiative and will have a completely financial viable project". The first facility would be operational in Tamil Nadu with pan India purchase including Gaziabad, Mumbai and Bangalore.

Speaking on the new technologies Dan says the company has built a robust system of digital operations and management which has helped in pushing the company to the lead, called integrated wireless monitoring. "We have a device called inclinometer in all our trackers which is connected with a wireless system and we can use track, control and monitor to get the maximum out of the installations".

Dan sees a vast scope for more such projects nationwide and mentions in the end the synergy between wind and solar that India enjoys geographically, which could play to its advantage, apart from the great returns on investment.

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NEXTracker solar energy Dan Shugar interview

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