Viz-A-Viz with Philippe Montarnal, Second Counsellor | French Embassy in India Head CEA office in India

Q. What are the new trends which are shaping the Solar Energy market specifically to Indian scenario? The current Indian Govt. has a strong nudge towards Solar Energy. The Government has proposed many new initiatives to woo the tech corridors? What are your comments to it?

Philippe Montarnal

Philippe Montarnal, Second Counsellor | French Embassy in India Head CEA office in India

India’s renewable energy sector is booming. After his election in 2014, Prime Minister N. Modi announced a “saffron revolution” in the field of solar energy, and ambitious targets have been set for wind energy. The government has also committed, as part of its national contribution for COP21, to increase to 40% share of renewable energy in the Indian electricity mix by 2030. The Indian government plans to install 40GW of solar panels on the roof and 60GW in solar farms. The Indian government also intends to make India a world leader in the manufacture of solar panels and batteries for storage.

Our analysis at CEA, is that, in the context of a severe international competition, the development of an industrial sector of production for the renewable energies will be able to develop only by a technological approach being distinguished from the current production. We face the same situation in Europe and India. For this reason, it is crucial to join our force to improve the links between R & D players and industrialists.

Q. Which key market is CEA rend ering and what new markets are on the exploratory zone of the company?

The DNA of CEA, as a state technological research organization in close connection with French and international industrials, is to mind the gap from research to industry. For several years, we have initiated a dialogue with Indian institutional and industrial stakeholders in the field of renewable energies. This dialogue has already led to academic and industrial cooperation, which contributes to the objectives of the “Make in India” program, and is carried out in synergy with the International Solar Alliance.

Our first axis is to develop institutional collaborations with Indian institutions involved in the development of renewable energy : for one part with MNRE (Ministry of New and Renewable Energy) and related agencies like NISE (National Institute of Solar Energy) and SECI (Solar Energy Corporation of India) and for other part with major IITs (Indian Institution of Technology) and Universities. The objective is the establishment of cooperation in the areas of training, mutual access to research facilities, technological development – like demonstrators- or investment in joint research programs.

A second axis consists in working with Indian companies for related research and development activities. It could include common feasibility studies to elaborate strategic industrial deployment taking part of CEA expertise and also deploying disruptive technological innovations – developed by CEA in link with French companies – with the main Indian manufacturers in the context of “Make in India”.

Many projects are standing out from this growing cooperation and two agreements were signed during State visit in India of the President of the French Republic

Q. The Global Solar Energy cost is expected to decline at a very fast pace in the forecast period (2018-2025). In the field of photovoltaic, the CEA’s research is focusing on improving the output and reducing the costs of photovoltaic modules. Which technology according to you will drive this cost reduction?

Innovation and research is not only on the module technologies but along the whole value chain: from materials, cells, modules up to systems, integration in electrical systems and applications level. At CEA, Research is focused on key enabling technologies as a driver for innovation on process, technologies and materials, as well as procedures, algorithms and energy management tools up to high industrial maturity level.

Therefore, CEA model, based on open innovation, allows to offer complementary solutions and technologies dedicated to each actor and complementary along the whole supply chain: from material providers, as well as equipment manufacturers, photovoltaic cells and modules manufacturers as well as system, EPC providers, solar energy producers up to solar energy users.

At very early stage of the research, CEA develops and uses demonstrators and prototypes, manufactured on advanced CEA platforms, which are representative from industrial conditions. This is a key condition in order to have fruitful feedback on innovation and in order to prepare efficient future industrial scale-up and integration.

As a result, CEA‘s research addresses and provides customized solutions both for the variety of actors from main stream (solar energy) by improving the output and reducing the costs of photovoltaic modules and electrical systems (To enhance PV yields and to decrease costs €/Wc and €/KWh) as well as the variety of actors for specific applications which integrate renewable energy.

Q. CEA and Vikram Solar signed Collaboration Agreement during Honourable French President, Mr Emmanuel Macron’s India visit. Please tell our readers more about this collaboration and how will it help to develop high efficiency low cost solar for the Indian market?

Under the MoU, CEA will share their know-how and technologies in the field of solar energy, storage, smart grid and thermal efficiency while Vikram Solar will apply these technologies in large volume manufacturing with a wider objective of improving solar photovoltaic cells and modules to perform at record-efficiency in energy conversion and simultaneously developing battery solutions by increasing their energy storage capacity. Other advanced research and development areas of collaboration will include crystallization and wafering, mono and bi-facial modules, Agri-photovoltaics, Solar mobility etc. as well as exploring new competitive materials in order to reduce costs.

Q. Please brief us more on the latest research underway for the EV battery technologies.

E-mobility is one of the key topics to support in the energy transition when it is charged within photovoltaic charging stations. However the variability of PV production requires a storage system to benefit from the solar production. Batteries is one storage solution addressed by CEA’s research.

In this field, CEA’s approach is to develop advanced technologies covering the whole value chain: from advanced batteries technologies (different chemical families with different maturities are addressed: Li-ion, LMP …) up to energy management systems (advanced battery management systems as well as charging stations). The developed technologies and numerical tools are validated through multiple demonstrators in different domains: automotive, tram and bus but also maritime and aerospace.

Q. Lastly, you being on the leadership role, what will be your mantra for the budding start-up community and young innovators of the Indian photovoltaic industry?

Frugal, flexible and inclusive innovations, should pave the way of an India-France technological and industrial cooperation on renewable energy

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