pv magazine: Last year, a report by Asian Development Bank identified the poor and piecemeal implementation of net metering policies as a major roadblock to the uptake of rooftop solar systems in India. How has the demand and policy landscape changed recently?
Policy-wise, there are some good points and some points where probably things can be improved. For instance, the net metering upper limit is capped to 500 kWp in some states while in others it’s up to 1,000 kWp, which sometimes is a bottleneck for industries, especially those that do not have high connected load but varying demand. Barring that, policies across states and at the center level are encouraging the adoption of rooftop solar.
The demand is going up by leaps and bounds as far as this sector is concerned, especially in the last three to four years. COP26 was a landmark event, post which awareness amongst corporate for adopting sustainability has gone up leading to a spurt of rooftop projects for captive consumption. Also, commercial viability has been the second reason for the rapid adoption of solar energy among industries.
What’s your solar module strategy in India?
Not only in India but worldwide, Panasonic has adopted the strategy of remaining technology agonistic and assessing thoroughly available technology options in the market. We look at what’s the latest and the best in technology, latch onto it and make those products with the highest quality available at an optimal price on our brand Panasonic.
We have a flexible OEM network strategy with multiple OEMs who make solar modules for us at key geographical locations to cater to our markets in the vicinity. We get these modules manufactured under our quality assurance plans and our tight quality control norms with our OEM partners. We prefer and cater to a niche market, i.e., distributed solar markets, in India as well as outside India where the customer prefers to work with brands like Panasonic. Our customers and partners cherish the association with Panasonic a 100-year-old company with more than 45 years of solar experience.
Large-format PV modules are gaining ground. How good are these for rooftop applications?
There is a popular misconception in minds of many stakeholders that the higher the wattage of modules, the higher the efficiency. However, that’s not the case! With improvements in technology, wafers and cells are now made in bigger dimensions like 182 mm or 210 mm resulting in higher wattages with the same number of cells configuration. However, with an increase in the dimensions and weight of solar modules, it becomes much more complex and difficult to handle them safely, especially on rooftop applications.
Looking at this aspect we have been educating as well as supplying our partners with two options of 495 Wp and 450 Wp half-cut mono PERC modules that are specially designed for rooftop installations. However, we also have the option of 550 Wp modules for customers looking at installations on the ground or flat roofs again using half-cut mono PERC cells of 182 mm.
C&I being its focus area, does Panasonic feel the need to offer solar inverters beyond PV modules while catering to this segment?
It’s always an advantage for our partners to offer as many products as possible to customers from a quality supplier like Panasonic. However, what we see is that this segment of the market, dominated by high-wattage string inverters, is already crowded with lots of quality and cost-effective options. So, currently, we have decided to stay away from launching our products in this segment but utilize good-quality products from our supply partners for our EPC projects.
What’s next from Panasonic?
We want to be the number one choice as an EPC service provider for C&I customers looking for quality and safe installations. We would like to extend our service offerings in the coming years to solar-plus-storage solutions.
In the modules and residential solar inverter category, we have now a well-established distribution, which we would like to expand further on pan India basis. Currently, our exports contribute one-third of our business, which we would like to strengthen further going beyond the seven countries that we are currently exporting with Panasonic local networks.
Our all-in-one solar streetlights are gaining momentum in the market, and we would further add more product variants in the coming days. Our launch of residential kits is on track, and this would be our upcoming offering to the residential segment with whom we are well connected with a range of electrical construction material (ECM) products.
What business do you expect to bring in?
We have been growing at a CAGR of almost 45% for the last three years and we are looking to continue this rate of growth for the next three years too. With our business growth in various segments and across geographies, we expect to cross the landmark of INR 10 billion for Panasonic Life Solutions India’s solar business in the next three years.
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