A PLI Scheme For Inverters Could be a Game Changer for India

A PLI Scheme For Inverters Could be a Game Changer for India

For Fimer India, ever since it completed its acquisition of ABB’s Solar Inverter business in March 2020, it has been all about building on it in India. Present in the country since 2010, it’s not like the firm was not known brand in India. Just that they are suddenly in the top tier, with plans to stay there. The firm also has a presence in the EV segment with its chargers, something it hopes to see in India too. We connected with Filippo Carzaniga, Chairman at Fimer, for his views on the market.

Q. Give is a brief on Fimer for our readers. Turnover, global revenues, presence across countries. Top 3 markets.

 Filippo Carzaniga, Chairman at Fimer

Filippo Carzaniga, Chairman at Fimer

FIMER is the fourth largest, tier one, solar inverter supplier in the world. We provide market-leading inverter systems across the utility, residential and C&I solar sectors, as well as e-mobility solutions.

We have over 1100 employees in 25 countries together with local training centers and manufacturing hubs. FIMER also invests heavily in R&D – it is part of our DNA and we are constantly looking for new ways to improve our solutions and platforms.

Q. How is the progress in India so far? After the ABB Inverter deal, does the firm plan to expand manufacturing further? Any plans to export from India?

We have been doing well in India in the utility, C&I and residential segments and also recently expanded our services into energy storage projects. Our installed base in India is >12GW+ spread across more than 5000 locations across the country. We foresee a bright future thanks to the push for 24/7 power encouraged by different government policies.

India has recently achieved the 100GW milestone of installed renewable energy capacity, with a further 50GW of renewable infrastructure under installation and approximately 27GW under tender. India has also enhanced its ambition to install 450GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030. With such encouraging moves towards solar and renewable energy in the country, it is our ambition to support this growth with the advanced technology our solar inverters bring.

Our India facility has been the global manufacturing centre for utility-scale application products as well as being one of FIMER’s R&D centres. We manufacture central inverters in our Bengaluru plant along with battery energy storage converters and microgrid energy storage products. We continue to invest heavily into R&D with a clear focus on delivering manufacturing excellence.

Our factory in Bangalore is the largest supplier of locally manufactured solar inverters in India, with an annual production of more than 5GW (gigawatt) with the latest infrastructure as well as testing facilities. FIMER supports local employment and the Indian factory operations is driven by a local team. This world-class facility has set a benchmark in India for other manufacturers to follow suit. The same factory is also delivering outdoor central inverters to markets around the globe, supporting India’s ambition for excellence in exports.

Q. Fimer has also introduced a utility string inverter, the PVS-350 TL. Does the firm see the market shifting completely to string inverters now? Fimer’s own present and future portfolio plans?

fimer ev charging stationWe know that, while string inverters are becoming increasingly popular for utility projects, more traditional central architectures are still prevalent, currently accounting for almost 40 percent of the market.

With this in mind, our two new market leading platforms for the utility market – a high-power MPPT inverter, the PVS-350, and the PVS-260/PVS-300 modular conversion platform – are designed to cater for both decentralized and centralized applications, covering 100% of utility customer needs.

The PVS-350 is the most powerful and power dense multi-MPPT string inverter in the solar industry, optimized for decentralized PV system architectures with a maximum efficiency of ɳMAX > 99 percent to ensure the highest energy yield. It also has the smallest footprint when compared to other similar products, and significantly reduces the risk of downtime that can occur with central inverters. For centralized system architectures the PVS-260/PVS-300 provides a fully modular solution engineered with a single-MPPT string platform. It can easily replace central inverters in more traditional designs, significantly improving performance and lowering BoP costs, optimizing the LCOE – achieving a 2.3 percent reduction on the LCOE of a modular conversion architecture compared to a central solution. It also has higher system availability, above 99.9 percent compared to 99.5 percent maximum from central solutions. In addition, the PVS-260/PVS-300 has a large capacity combined with super[1]compact design single MPPT power block, to enable system designers to keep a ‘centralized’ system architecture if preferred.

Q. Unlike the solar modules/cell market, the government has placed relatively fewer restrictions on inverter imports for the sector. Do you believe that could change anytime soon?  Why/Why not?

The government of India has recently imposed a 20% BCD on solar inverter imports to boost local manufacturing to push India’s self-reliant or “AatmaNirbhar Bharat” vision. This was imposed to achieve maximum localization and build a robust supply chain. It is to be seen whether the government approves a PLI scheme for inverters similar to the module market. If PLI scheme is introduced, it could be a game changer for the inverter market.

Q. Post-acquisition of ABB Inverters, how has Fimer India performed? How do you feel about your prospects in India in the coming 3 to 5 year period?

We are one of the most experienced solar inverter players in the market and have had a presence in India since 2010-11. While we are amongst leading top 3 suppliers for central inverters, we have been making steady and upward inroads into the string inverter market as well.

For example, we recently launched our PVS 10-33 for the commercial and industrial market segment along with the new PVS[1]350-TL for the utility segment. We have also launched our e-mobility solutions in India and recently commissioned our first pilot project with the installation of our EV AC wallbox and REACT 2 at the prestigious IISC in Bengaluru. We will also be releasing new residential platforms in the month of October shortly.

According to IESA, the Indian EV market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 36 percent by 2026 and the EV battery market is also projected to grow at a CAGR of 30 percent during the same period. India has a lot to gain from the widespread adoption of e-mobility and FIMER has the right products, services and experience with over 35,000 EV charging stations installed e-mobility and FIMER has the right products, services and experience with over 35,000 EV charging stations installed globally to help India drive this EV revolution.

We are also active in energy storage solutions and have a number of products for both the residential and utility segments. We have recently commissioned a 15MW system with 6MWhr storage facility in India, one of the biggest in the country. We are optimistic about making a difference with our innovative products and leading the way for the growth in the country.

Q. On inverters, do you see any key differences in the Indian market vis a vis other large market? What’s a key market challenge for you?

Increasing demand for standby sources of power across industrial and commercial applications is one of the key factors driving the Indian inverter market. Additionally, factors such as growing urbanization and the rising demand and supply gap of electricity are further propelling the market. India has been a benchmark player in adopting renewable sources of energy, especially solar, leading to a growth of projects across the country.

With the country’s ambitious plan of 450GW by 2030, the road ahead is interesting and challenging at the same time. India has been the lowest price per watt market, so the price dynamic is quite challenging. Lower tariffs as seen in the bids of several government tenders are driving this low-cost market, leading to several long-term and short-term implications on the prices of both modules and inverters.

The residential market has been crowded with several new players sourcing low[1]quality equipment with the lowest prices which is further making the segment competitive. Considering the impetus on local manufacturers, the demand supply gap is also a major challenge that needs to be addressed properly in a planned manner.

Q. As module prices have fallen in the past decade, so too has the pressure on other parts of the solar supply chain to follow suit. With the market seemingly finding or getting close to a ‘bottom’, do you believe the price drops are history now?

We are not looking at absolute price per watt comparison of the inverters. With the development of new technologies in inverter applications, we are focussing on the cost of energy and passing the maximum benefits to the customer. There is this need to work with our customers and educate them about the long-term benefits and potential of the plant and understand the importance of cost of energy over the direct price per watt of the inverter. Our inverters are specifically designed to achieve reductions in LCOE.

Price drops could be temporary depending on various factors and also as an after effect in the post-pandemic era.

Q. How do you see the impact of storage+ systems in the coming years? In terms of share and contribution to sales?

Storage is expected to play a key role in the future success of solar PV – not just for residential and C&I, but for utility-scale as well. The cumulative installed capacity of energy storage projects is expected to increase from 11 GW in 2020 to 168 GW in 2030, according to BloombergNEF’s New Energy Outlook. As batteries become more powerful and last longer, the switch from fossil fuels to solar PV renewable energy will be further supported, increasing overall demand. For example, our new utility platforms have been specifically designed to easily integrate with future requirements for battery storage, providing a whole-system solution for the utility market now and in the future, and forthcoming products will also be storage-ready.

The stationary energy storage market in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of about eight per cent during 2020-27. We have inverters and storage solutions for both residential and utility segments. REACT 2 is FIMER’s photovoltaic energy storage system, allowing users to store excess energy and optimize the energy use in residential applications. FIMER’s MGS100 brings together all of the components required for a sustainable microgrid in a single device. Our bidirectional converter, PVS980-58BC, is aimed at large-scale grid connected energy storage applications. The converters are available from 1454 kVA up to 2091 kVA. The PVS980-58BC bidirectional converter is based on the world’s leading converter platform used also in FIMER’s solar inverters, ensuring high performance, reliability and availability of global service support.

KN Sreevatsa, Managing Director -India, enthusiastically adds- “We have some fantastic projects done in India so far on Microgrids. Our storage solutions available with easy integration for DG/wind/biomass gen are an ideal fit for village electrification and telecom towers. With over 10MW installation under different stages of installation, we are optimistic about growth in energy storage solutions.”

Q. If you had to be really optimistic, what is that one policy move the solar sector could benefit from?

The PLI (Production Linked Incentive) Scheme is a Central Government scheme introduced to provide financial incentives for domestic manufacturing of goods and also to attract large investments. The scheme did well enough for a roll-out to the solar modules market. If a similar PLI scheme can be introduced for solar inverters, it could be a game changer for the inverter market.

Q. Fimer also has a suite of offerings in the EV charging space. Are you offering those in India yet? How do you see the potential for those here?

The growth in the global e-mobility market is increasing, both in terms of registrations of ‘hybrid (PHEV) and ‘full-electric (BEV) vehicles which means that the need to offer charging infrastructures is increasing.

Since 2017, we have been working with the main players in e-mobility, developing and manufacturing charging solutions for electric-powered vehicles. We have developed platforms, both in DC and in AC, designed to meet the diverse needs of users, who are seeking solutions for private, public and commercial use.

Our FIMER FLEXA AC Wallbox, FIMER FLEXA AC Station and FIMER ELECTRA (Fast) DC Station, all easy to install, certified and customizable, cover today the different needs of the market.

To date, we have supplied more than 35,000 charging stations, both AC and DC, to respond to the specific needs of our customers.

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