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August 28, 2012

Gloom Amidst the Boom: Why Solar Panel Cos are Wilting

From a Business Today article:
Though more and more solar energy is being produced in India - installed capacity rising exponentially from just 20 megawatts (MW) in 2009 to 980 MW by April 2012 - domestic solar panel manufacturers are in the doldrums. Just a couple of years ago, they were riding high. But now they hardly get any orders. All those setting up solar power plants prefer to buy their equipment overseas, especially from China.

... India's solar mission does stipulate some domestic sourcing, but it makes a significant exception. Solar panels are of two kinds: those made of crystalline silicon, and those employing the more contemporary 'thin film' technology. The latter are not necessarily better - indeed globally, only 10 per cent of installed solar power capacity uses thin film. But the local sourcing restriction does not extend to thin films and almost all Indian solar power producers have plumped for it.

... Still, desperate situations often spark off ingenious solutions and local solar equipment makers too are fighting back, without waiting for the banks or the government to bail them out. Some are getting into solar power generation themselves - a vertical integration which guarantees that a part of their production always has a market. Moser Baer, for instance, set up two solar power plants last year which source 40 per cent of their panel requirements from Moser Baer's own manufacturing division.

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