Our Fluorine-Free Endurance Backsheets are Fully Recyclable, Helping to Make Solar Even More Sustainable: Vivek Chaturvedi

India is 2nd biggest market for DSM for our relatively newer offering – Endurance backsheets. These backsheets do not contain fluorine and are fully recyclable, helping to make the solar industry even more sustainable. India is at a cusp of exponential growth, hence is a market of strategic importance to DSM. We have been in India for the last 31 years and solar provides an exciting opportunity to add to our portfolio. We are already number 1 in coatings and among the highest growing backsheet brands in India, believes Vivek Chaturvedi, Regional Business Director Solar – (India, ME & Africa), DSM, a globally recognized science-based company actively working in solar space in India. In a chat with Manu Tayal, Associate Editor, Saur Energy International, Chaturvedi shared his views on various topics including his company’s product offerings for the Indian market, business strategy amid Covid-19, business plans for India, how they overcame challenges while working in India, suggestions for the government etc. Here’re the excerpts from that exclusive interview published in the Saur Energy International Magazine’s June 2020 edition:

Q. Shed some light on DSM and its product offerings for India’s clean and green energy space?

Vivek Chaturvedi, Regional Business Director Solar – (India, ME & Africa), DSM

Vivek Chaturvedi, Regional Business Director Solar – (India, ME & Africa), DSM

DSM is a global science-based company active in Nutrition, Health and Sustainable materials. We have a long and successful heritage in materials innovation. In recent years we’ve applied this wealth of knowledge to the solar industry, with one clear ambition: to make clean and affordable solar energy available for all. Our family of solar materials’ technologies boosts, power generated by solar PV systems and reduce the cost of solar energy. These materials include various anti-reflective coatings, with an increasing focus on the back sheets. This is based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) outlined by the United Nations which are essential to our future prosperity; with higher focus on three SDGs: SDG 7 ‘Ensuring access to affordable, clean energy for all’; SDG 12 ‘Ensuring responsible consumption and production’; and SDG 13 ‘Taking urgent action to combat climate change’.

Q. What is the significance of anti-reflective and anti-soiling coatings for solar panels? Explain with an example.

Our Anti-Reflective coatings lead the industry by enabling a 3-4% power gain compared to untreated glass. This technology has been extended to create a broad portfolio for specific applications that add extra features to the overall benefit of boosting power output; an Anti-Soiling coating for desert-like environments that adds an anti-soiling property to the AR function; an aesthetically pleasing Neutral coating for residential solar panels and an extreme transmission AR coating XT with best-in-class transmission for 10% extra power boost compared to our regular coating designed for high power solar modules. Our latest coating development is an Anti-Reflective coating for aftermarket applications (for existing solar parks) that boosts solar output by up to 3% (as compared to uncoated panels). Example: Application of our DSM AntiSoiling coating in India, Andhra Pradesh State.

This state has a semi-arid climate, with hot & dry conditions for most of the year and average rainfall of ~500mm. Two types of modules are being tested: Modules with DSM Anti-Soiling coating and modules that have a standard (non-DSM) AR coating. The test is carried out on a ~1 MW scale within the 150-MW park. Data is collected at string level and recorded since September 2018. The result so far is a performance improvement of ~2.5% and a reduction of daily soiling rate ~50%, which impacts cleaning costs, reducing consumables such as scarce water and labor costs.

Q. Do the company’s business operations feel the heat of the coronavirus crisis? How do you deal with it? Your strategy.

COVID-19 has impacted the global solar market and increased uncertainty in what was an already dynamic business driven by local requirements (tariffs, laws, etc.). Fortunately, our production continued, and we were able to swiftly act upon changing demands. We are now taking a more regionally focused, customer-centric approach to ensure we are best positioned to swiftly meet local needs in today’s dynamic market.

Q. What are DSM’s plans for the Indian solar market in next few years? What scope do you see here?

India is amongst the world’s 3rd biggest market in terms of installations for the industry and is 2nd biggest market for DSM for our relatively newer offering – Endurance backsheets. Featuring the strongest core layer in the industry, DSM Endurance backsheet is the most durable PV backsheet on the market today – delivering long-term protection against moisture, mechanical stress, sand abrasion and UV. Since 2013, with 15 million modules installed, and 0 failures, it’s built to last. Moreover, our Endurance backsheets do not contain fluorine and are fully recyclable, helping to make the solar industry even more sustainable. India is at a cusp of exponential growth, hence is a market of strategic importance to DSM. We have been in India for the last 31 years and solar provides an exciting opportunity to add to our portfolio. We are already number 1 in coatings and among the highest growing backsheet brands in India.

Q. Recently DSM and Lightyear joined forces for electric vehicles (EV) adoption, is there any plan of DSM to enter into this segment in India as well in near future?

This is an exciting development. Lightyear and DSM see an opportunity to jointly scale the commercialization of Lightyear’s unique solar-powered roof for the electric vehicle market. Specifically, the partnership aims to integrate solar-powered roofs, based on back-contact solar technology, in a variety of electric vehicles, including cars, vans and buses – thus enabling users to charge their vehicles directly with clean energy. We are focusing on Germany, UK, Netherlands and the USA right now.

Q. What kind of challenges do you find while working in India in the solar segment?

Our biggest challenge was about 3 years back, when we were launching our Endurance backsheets, which are fully recyclable and made using sustainable materials. The bid conditions blocked our entry into the market. However when we brought this to the notice of appropriate authorities, their action was swift and this is how we overcame that challenge.

I believe the biggest challenge today is around focusing on the cost of Wp and not on the cost of Kw Hr. But it is changing fast for the better. Our growing market share in backsheets and Anti-Soiling coating is a testimony to this fact.

Q. In your view, what steps on the policy level should be taken in order to boost the solar sector in India?

I believe the Indian Government has done well on policy front till now and is continuously striving to make them fair and long term. Some additional predictability will go a long way in reassuring the industry and bring greater investments in generation and manufacturing segments.

Q. Recently, DSM completed 100 GW of installations with its recyclable backsheets and anti-reflective coatings. Shed some light on the achievement.

Indeed, we reached a milestone well worth celebrating. Specifically, 100 GWp of solar plants now include a DSM coating and/or backsheet. This is equivalent to 150,000 soccer pitches! This means that, till date, one out of every six solar modules worldwide is produced using one of our solutions. It all started back in 2011 when we introduced our AR coating, which today enables more than 300 million solar panels to capture more of the sun’s power.

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Manu Tayal

Manu Tayal

Manu is an Associate Editor at Saur Energy International where she writes and edits clean & green energy news, featured articles and interview industry veterans with a special focus on solar, wind and financial segments.

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