S Wadhwa - India's first entrepreneur to sell solar power, commercially

9 December 2009Sourced from: Azure Power web site
News confirmation: Silicon News Bureau
(Wednesday,09 December 2009, 15:35 hrs)
Project number 28631
SectorElectric Power
DepartmentGlobal Inform. & Comm. Tech.
Company nameAzure Power India Private Limited
Environmental categoryB
StatusPend PDS-IR
Date ESRS disclosedNovember 17, 2009
Azure Power owner: S Wadhwa (an Amritsar born, Punjab, India)

Azure Power India Private Limited (“Azure Power” or the “Company”), which was incorporated in 2008, is an independent solar power service provider headquartered in New Delhi, India with offices in California.

The Company has received approvals to commission a total of 22 MWs of solar photovoltaic power projects across 3 Indian states and plans to complete additional installation of 4 MW in Punjab and 8 MW in Gujarat by the end of 2010 (the “Project”).

Further, the Company is currently in the process of implementing its first project, a 2 MW grid connected solar power plant at Awan village, in Punjab state of India and expects to commission the first unit (of 1 MW capacity) in 2009.

By 2015, the Company proposes to install ±100 MW of solar power plants in India. The Company has approached IFC for a corporate investment to part finance the Project.

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On December 1, Azure commissioned the first phase (one Mw) of its two Mw solar PV plant in Awan, Amritsar, and has begun to sell solar power to the Punjab State Electricity Board. That makes him the first entrepreneur to sell solar power commercially in India, reports Rediff.

"I returned to India after 15 years to make a difference, besides making money," says Wadhwa. "Many small and big companies have entered the fray but none of them have commissioned any projects yet."

Commercial and sentimental reasons dictated his choice of Punjab. "I was born in Amritsar, so I wanted to give something back to this place," he said. Besides, the Punjab government is offering a peak rate (peak hours are billed at higher rates) for sale of power from solar projects at Rs. 8.93 per Kwh (kilowatt-hour) from 2011-12, higher than the Rs. 3 to 4 per kwH it pays for conventional energy.

This doesn't quite cover costs (Rs. 12-20 per kwh) but because the power purchase agreement with Punjab is valid for 25 years, Wadhwa reckons he'll make money at some point, since the costs of solar power generation are expected to decline at seven to nine percent per year by 2020. Hence, Azure Power gets the benefit of reduced costs over time and it also does not have to look out for buyers during this period.

After planning to generate 18 Mw power through solar PV power plants, the state government has started to allocate other such projects. Being environment-friendly and pollution-free, the Punjab government has stated that these projects should be eligible for carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism.

Wadhwa claims that his power plant is cost-effective - the 1 Mw plant costs Rs. 17-19 crore (Rs. 170-190 million). Compared to this, public sector Bharat Petroleum Corporation is building a one Mw PV power plant in Mohali for Rs. 25 crore (Rs. 250 million).

Wadhwa argues that his costs will fall further once the prices of silicon and PV modules fall. Azure Power received initial venture capital funding from Helion Ventures and Foundation Capital. Wadhwa is also talking to other state governments like;

1. Haryana,
2. Gujarat,
3. Maharashtra,
4. West Bengal and
5. Karnataka

to set up solar plants.

All these states offer different peaking rates and assure purchasapacity to four Mw. He also plans to set up an eight Mw plant in Gujarat by the end of financial year 2009-10. To finance these plants, he has two more investors lined up.

Azure Power's uniqueness lies in the fact that the company designs, finances, owns and operates solar power plants. The solar PV modules are imported from countries like China and Wadhwa's team assembles the important modules as "completely knocked down kits." "Had the quality been better and cost of modules manufactured in India been lower, we would have considered buying the solar PV modules from India itself," rues Wadhwa.

He explains that the solar PV modules imported from China and the U.S. can generate more power per cell and hence occupy less land. "This helps us reduce the cost of setting up plants," says Wadhwa. The favourable policy of the MNRE and the government's National Solar Mission, he hopes, will only further his cause.

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