Can ATUM Bridge The Rooftop Solar Gap for India?

For Hyderabad based Visaka Industries, an established firm (Rs 1057 crore revenues in 2019-20) in the construction sector with multiple product lines ranging from corrugated cement sheets, fibre cement boards, and manmade yarn, the move into Hybrid solar roofs might be the most transformational yet. Not only does the new venture mark its entry into sustainable solutions in a big way, it could also potentially open up new opportunities in sustainable building materials, as the firm leverages its 3 decades of experience to drive ATUM into the market. As a rooftop solar solution, ATUM seeks to be the bridge between a stuttering rooftop solar sector that is embroiled in regulations and policy, and the need for greener, more energy-efficient buildings.

The hybrid roof-top solar product is the first of its kind in India. The company claims a patent on the unique integration it has managed here, along with a promise to deliver to be thermally efficient and generate 20% more revenue when compared to conventional solar panels.  The 20-year patent on ATUM granted last year was for the invention titled “Eco-Friendly Energy Generating Roof.”

The firm then hustled to ensure the prestigious UL Certification as per the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards. ATUM has also been certified by the Campbell Corporation, to take a uniform load of 780 lbs per sqm, a snow load of 2200 lbs and the jointing mechanism is a patented leak proof system as per American Society for Testing and Material (ASTM) standards. A class A fire rating and designed to take wind speeds of over 150kmph have been the other selling points the firm offers. Finally, the firm has gone with GreenPro Certified material to build on its sustainability and reliability.

By removing the need for insulation under the roof, ATUM also ensures a cost-saving, eventually leading to a full payback on investment in 3 years or less, claims the firm. That is an estimated cost of Rs 450 per sq feet. A project managed personally by Vamsi Gaddam, Joint Managing Director at the firm, the firm is pushing hard to ensure ATUM achieves its potential at a time when sustainability has moved beyond a buzz word for users today.  To do that, it is utilising the full experience of its engagement with architects, builders and more across the construction value chain.

Vamsi Gaddam, JMD, Visaka Industries

Vamsi Gaddam, JMD, Visaka Industries

Talking to SaurEnergy, Vamsi says that “ATUM came about out of a need for us to look at emerging market needs. There was a demand for more sustainable options, and combining solar generation with a rooftop was a challenge we set ourselves.”

On initial acceptance so far, he adds that “we have already had success with our initial marketing push, with projects in India and abroad, spanning a multitude of segments and industries, while delivering a 1 million sq ft of solar roofing in just 365 days. “ On the difference between ATUM and BIPV, Vamsi adds that “ ATUM is different from the usual BIPV (Building Integrated Photo Voltaic) solution in many ways. Though being a BIPV, it is not just an add-on to a roof,  ATUM is a roof by itself, replacing the cost of roof and also ensuring there is no loss in efficiency due to thermal degradation, making it one of the most commercially viable and successful BIPV Products. Also, BIPV efficiency is much lower than industry standard of traditional solar – where ATUM gives 30-40% higher generation in the same space.”

An ATUM Installation In Telangana

An ATUM Installation In Telangana

For 2021, the firm has an ambitious target for ATUM, with 4 million sq. feet for the year. With its own manufacturing facility that can roll out upto 5 million sq ft annually, the firm is well placed to respond fast to market needs. The firm also has partnerships with various module and inverter manufacturers, to offer enough choice to users.

The challenge will be convincing influencers in the construction sector, for which Gaddam has a clear strategy. “We have an established network across key markets, that gives buyers the confidence to go with us”. On marketing, the firm plans to go with a strategy where the end-user will also be targeted with communications around the solar roof. It has its task cut out, as the building and construction sector can be very conservative when it comes to change, without a compelling cost proposition. At Rs 450 per sq feet on average the ATUM advantage will require more than just green thinking. A key challenge might be the quality of installers, where the firm is taking steps to mitigate it. From training to having its own team to support builders and architects.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna has been a media professional for over 20 years. He is the Group Editor of Saur Energy International