Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Winds of change at Suzlon, focus on solar energy
Within a year, we will build, commission and sell solar projects: Tulsi Tanti
Photo: India Today
December 10, 2014: After wading through the troubled waters of debt and falling revenues, Suzlon, India's first and the world's fifth largest wind turbine energy maker, is bracing for a leap of faith, on several fronts. From investing in solar energy to repowering of old sites to the second generation of the Tanti family taking charge of different business, the company is reorienting.

Suzlon, the leading Indian player in the wind energy business, is now looking to expand its portfolio by venturing into solar power. "We have to consolidate, achieve more growth and invest in technology so as to bring the cost of energy down. We do not require any acquisition, but we are now focusing on the need for solar energy. No company in the Indian market is providing end-to-end solutions in solar power. In the next financial year, we will begin offering our customers both wind and solar parks," Tulsi Tanti, founder and chief executive officer of Suzlon, told Business Standard.

The company's executives said four sites across Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh had been identified. Solar power projects of 50 Mw each would be built at these sites. "Within a year, we will build, commission and sell solar projects," said Tanti.

The second generation of the Tanti family is taking up active roles in the company's management after being involved in different business worldwide. According to the market buzz, Tanti's son Pranav and daughter-in-law have taken up assignments in the group. Pranav is looking after the supply chain and logistics, while his wife Sayogeeta Agarwal is managing infrastructure for Suzlon. Daughter Nidhi Tanti, by her father's own admission, is working with him in business affairs as an assistant general manager. The change of gears is visible on all fronts of the company. Satara, 115 km from Pune, houses Suzlon's first and oldest wind power plant of 201 Mw set up in 1999. Since a wind turbine's life is 25 years, preparations are on to repower the site. Old wind turbines that are nearing their expiry age will be replaced with better and efficient ones.

"We are also establishing three manufacturing bases in Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan to make the next generation two Mw turbine called S111. This turbine has a 120 meter tower and 111 meter rotor, and will provide over 30 per cent plant load factor," said Tanti. The National Democratic Alliance government is asking wind power producers to ramp up the annual installation of wind power plants to 10,000 Mw annually. For solar power the plan is to achieve 1 lakh Mw in five years.

"If we address issues of land, power evacuation and provide financing for 20 years, then it is possible to achieve the 10,000 Mw target by 2018-19. We have a system problem, not a capacity problem. The state and central governments and financial institutions need to work together and facilitate funding, availability of sites and grid infrastructure," said Tanti.

After a lull of two years, Suzlon's revenue jumped by 16 per cent in the first half of 2014-15 over the same period of the previous year and volumes grew by 96 per cent in the Indian market during the same period. Things are looking up for the company, which went through a corporate debt restructuring programme of $1.8 billion in 2013.

Following the same business model as in wind energy, Suzlon will introduce feed-in tariff in solar power sales, where power is sold at a cost-based rate decided in the power purchase agreement with the procurer for the whole life of the project. Apart from Gujarat, all state and central level project tenders in solar epower are based on competitive bidding, where the lowest bid rate is favoured.

  • Suzlon will set up four solar power plants of 50 Mw each in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
  • Will launch three new manufacturing facilities in Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan.
  • Repowering of 25-year old wind farms to start in next two-three years.
  • Process will begin with the Satara wind power plant.
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