Bill Gates-Backed US Firm to Pour $300 M in India’s Module Production

Bill Gates-Backed US Firm to Pour $300 M in India’s Module Production

US-based 1366 Technologies has plans to invest $300 million to set up a 2 GW solar wafer and cell manufacturing facility in India under the government’s production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme. The firm produces silicon wafers by casting them in their ultimate shape directly in a mold, rather than the prevailing standard method in which wafers are cut from a large ingot.

According to a recent article in financial daily Mint, based on a telephonic interview with 1366’s chief executive and founder Frank van Mierlo, the Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures-backed company is looking for an Indian partner, who will handle the module manufacturing part of the production chain and use the equipment to set up solar parks in India. Names of the firms being considered for this collaboration have not been revealed on account of non-disclosure agreements.

India today has a domestic manufacturing capacity of just 3 GW for solar cells and 15 GW for solar modules. The PLI scheme, worth ₹4,500 crore and part of domestic content requirement strategy, is expected to help add 10GW of integrated solar PV manufacturing capacity by bringing direct investment of around ₹17,200 crore.

North Bridge Venture Partners and Polaris Partners are also among the investors associated with 1366 Technologies, which has received funding amounting to $200 million through both equity and non-dilutive resources.

Mierlo has said that capital markets are very friendly to technology plays and that in two years’ time, the only solar modules to be sold in India will have to be domestically manufactured and everyone understands that. Module making will be the most profitable part of this supply chain and a lot of people are interested because of this underlying market dynamic, he added.

He also believes that given the combination of factors such as domestic content requirement, ALMM (approved list of modules and manufacturers), custom duty and PLI make India a pretty good bet for clean energy transition anywhere in the world.

At a virtual press conference held yesterday on India’s role as a Global Champion for the Energy Transition theme at the UN High Level Dialogue on Energy 2021, Union Power Minister Mr R.K. Singh said that by March 2022, 17 GW of fresh solar (module) manufacturing capacity would be created, to which another 10 GW might expected to be added by December.

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Soumya Duggal

Soumya is a master's degree holder in English, with a passion for writing. It's an interest she has directed towards environmental writing recently, with a special emphasis on the progress being made in renewable energy.