In 1998, with the vision of an Ex-Professor of an Engg. College, Goutam Solar started supplying solar components to System Integrators. Later, it set up an R&D Center and four factories in Haridwar for manufacturing solar components in the entire value chain of Distributed Solar. In an exclusive e-interview, Gautam Mohanka, Managing Director of the company, is fielding questions from P. K. Chatterjee (PK) on the growth of the solar components manufacturing segment in India. Excerpts…

Is India capable of indigenously manufacturing world-class solar panels at competitive prices?

I think India most certainly is capable of producing world-class solar panels at competitive prices. However, at the moment we’re still dependent on other countries for sourcing raw materials that go into the production of solar panels. Things are beginning to change though – and government policies are empowering local manufacturing. Perhaps within a year or two, we will be able to produce solar panels in the country, not only to meet our demand but also to scale up our production in such a way that we become an important player in the global market.

How is the domestic industry shaping up?

The domestic industry is on a growth trajectory despite the adverse situations created by the COVID – 19 pandemic. The industry is scaling up its production capacity to meet the increasing demand as well. The only issue it is facing at the moment is that the prices of raw materials are fluctuating due to broken supply chains. This, in turn, is causing the prices of finished products to fluctuate. However, I believe as the pandemic becomes more manageable and things settle down within a year or two, the market will start registering tremendous growth.

Caption 1: A view of a project by Gautam Solar…

What kind of support is being obtained from the government’s end?

The government has very recently launched the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme, which is supposed to help the manufacturers. The details about the scheme, though, are still to be announced and we’re all waiting for that.

What is Gautam Solar’s role in this journey?

Gautam Solar has always played an important role in the growth of the solar industry. From being the very first 100% Indian solar manufacturer that produces everything in-situ to pioneering new products, we’ve always kept development at the center of our focus. Through our products, we’ve helped System Integrators (SIs) all over the country. We started with a production capacity of just 30 MW and now we’re at 250 MW. That is a growth of more than 800%, which shows that we’ve become an integral part of the solar industry.

A view of solar panels fixed on an uneven land…

How is the pandemic affecting the growth of this industry?

The energy demand is continuing to grow and the pandemic has had little effect on that. While procuring raw materials has become a bit of a challenge due to the lockdown situation in many states, we haven’t seen a fall in our demand. The System Integrators (SIs) that have been employed by the government for certain projects are still working on those projects, and we’re supplying them with the products they need. So, I believe that the demand for solar panels should remain steady despite the pandemic.

What are your plans for the future?

We are always looking to devise new strategies to increase our production capacity to meet the rising demand. Besides that, we’re aiming to innovate, design, and manufacture the best, most robust solar products that meet the requirements of the Indian customers (farmers, urban families, commercial and industrial enterprises, and the government sector).

Please tell me about your R&D (Research and Development) efforts.

We have an in-house R&D team that works closely with System Integrators (SIs) to come up with new and innovative products that can solve the problems that the people are facing.

What’s your opinion on the next steps that the union government must take to achieve the target of 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022?

I think the government is already doing a commendable job in promoting the development of solar energy in the country, which will constitute 100 GW to the total target of 175 GW. The government has come up with several fiscal and promotional incentives such as accelerated depreciation, waiver of Inter-State Transmission System (ISTS) charges, and losses, financing solar rooftop systems as part of the home loan and permitting FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) up to 100% under the automatic route. We believe that with these measures, we will become successful in increasing renewable energy production in the country – especially in terms of solar energy.

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