We believe that to ensure local manufacturing happens in India, government has to devise a long-term policy for continuous demand for local cells/modules for at least 10 years which will ensure that project returns are easily guaranteed for investor and also ensure that no matter what situation arises these policies are not tempered or affected by domestic or international politics, believes Samir Mehta, CEO, Bergen Solar Power and Energy Ltd, an arm of 35 year old Bergen Group which is in itself a diversified company. In conversation with Manu Tayal, Associate Editor, Saur Energy International, Mehta shared his views on various issues which the power sector is currently dealing with along with his company’s long term plans in the renewable energy segment, product offerings etc. Here’re the excerpts from that exclusive interview published in the Saur Energy International Magazine’s October 2019 edition:
Q. As a diversified group, tell us about the key focus areas for Bergen in the near future.
Energy and automation will form the crux of the future Indian growth story. Hence, we have focused our strength on providing complete solutions to our customers for energy generation, transformation and storage technologies as well as new automation technologies for manufacturing.
Q. Your solar vertical has become key in the past twelve years. Tell us about your offerings, and experience in the market there.
Bergen Group started 35 years ago and with a vision of helping our customer to grow, we developed many verticals. Solar vertical was started by the group in 2003 with a focus on the manufacturing industry for solar cell and solar panel. In the course of our work, we got a lot of requirements for solar power generation technology support, so we did some EPC work for sharing knowledge with our customers as well as we got some products like CCU and inverters in our product range. So in a way, our solar offerings were all shaped by market demands. Today Bergen Solar Power and Energy Limited has become a one-stop in Bergen group for all activities which falls under solar be it manufacturing of polysilicon, solar wafer, solar cell and solar module, providing various type of inverters, charge controllers and other products related to power generation as well as energy storage technologies. We are pleased to inform that we have now capabilities to provide a complete turnkey greenfield or brownfield solar manufacturing projects. We feel honoured to have been a part of many big projects which have happened in the case of solar manufacturing in India.
Q. Do you offer products such as Non-Imaging Concentrating Collector (NICC)? Is it viable in the Indian market and how?
Yes, we provide NICC technology which was actually created for NASA. It is an excellent rooftop solution for any organization which is looking for reducing their carbon footprint for steam generation using solar in small compact space. Since the design of the concentrating structure is unique, it allows a high concentration of the solar radiation throughout the entire solar day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm without any moving structure. Since it makes use of diffusion radiation also and requires less maintenance work like cleaning, we have found high steam generation potential with low CapEx. We have found the system extremely viable where people use high-cost conventional fuel to generate steam. We see a big potential for this technology implementation in India.
Q. With such close competition in the market in India, are you looking at exports too? Or focused on India only? How do you plan to stand out from the competition?
Like all wise people said competition is always good and we believe also in the same. With our unique product and solution offerings at reasonable prices and excellent after-sales service, besides our experience in the sector, we can differentiate ourselves from our competition. But honestly, the pie is big enough for all the quality players to operate. Issues are more from Chinese imports, inconsistent govt. policies etc. We are already exporting some of our products to SAARC and Africa Countries and we are exploring some other major economies.
Q. What are your product offerings for off-grid solar plants? Do you provide after-sales services too?
We provide complete Off-Grid plants as well as components. We have already executed more than a 500KW of Off-Grid plants across India. Also, we supply highly advanced charge controller and off-grid inverters. After-sales is a key differentiator for us and we strongly believe we can retain our customer only because of after-sales services.
Q. Currently, do you supply mono and bifacial solar cells? Which are more in demand in the Indian market? And why? Do you think the market will move away from polycrystalline cells anytime soon?
We provide cells from our partner Runergy from China. So we can provide each type, based on demand. Also, we supply turnkey technology for solar cell manufacturing in India. Demand for mono and bifacial solar cell will be mainly driven due to reducing LCOE which will be achieved mainly because of the production of the high-power panels, in turn reducing BOS. Also, these trends will be decided by wafer manufacturers in China which are increasingly focusing on mono technology due to domestic demand and increase profit.
Q. The Indian government has been announcing various initiatives from time to time to support domestic manufacturing. How much have they helped? Do you see any major challenges still?
Domestic manufacturing in India has always been going through a tough time due to either negligence by government policies or because of international situations which has always been an issue with local manufacturing. We believe to ensure local manufacturing happens in India, government has to devise a long-term policy for continuous demand for local cells/modules for at least 10 years which will ensure that project returns are easily guaranteed for investor and also ensure that no matter what situation arises these policies are not tempered or affected by domestic or international politics. Interest on Capital is another deterrent on the viability of these projects. Some relief should be planned. The government should understand local manufacturing is essential for the development of the country through job creation and not the cheapest price of electricity which is a requirement of DISCOM because of their financial health and due to their mismanagement. The whole country is penalized for the due to discom inefficiencies.
Q. How do you see the demand or speed of absorption of Lithium-ion batteries in the country in the next 5 years?
As part of the evolution of this industry because of the inconsistency of RE generation, energy storage technologies are the obvious next step to even out inconsistencies. Whether it will be Lithium-based storage technology or another technology, time will tell. What we do understand is that it will be a play of major technology players and smaller players will not be able to play in this game because of the cost economics.
Q. Are you currently working or planning to enter into the electric vehicle charging space as well?
We do have ready products for EV charging and various solutions. One of the interesting solutions we have is a renewables powered EV charging with storage solution which can feed energy into Grid during non-usage hours. Something like this should have a bright future, as it makes a lot more sense to power EV’s with renewable energy.