General Electric Co., Siemens AG and Areva SA have won orders from India’s largest solar plants requiring conventional turbines, helping to offset a slump in the U.S. where developers are scrapping such projects.
Reliance Power Ltd., controlled by billionaire Anil Ambani, and Lanco Infratech Ltd. are among seven companies building a third of India’s planned sun-powered capacity to 2013 using solar-thermal technology which concentrates sunlight to boil water to power steam turbines.
Four have ordered units from Siemens, one from GE and one from Areva, according to interviews this week and documents obtained from the companies by Bloomberg News. Aurum Renewable Energy Pvt. expects to select a supplier this month and is considering GE, Siemens and Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Shin Nippon Machinery Co.
The contracts help offset dwindling demand in the U.S., where developers have ditched solar-thermal technology for cheaper, silicon-based panels. GE, Siemens and Areva acquired stakes in the last three years in solar-thermal equipment makers, backing a technology valued for its ability to store and supply power around the clock unlike photovoltaic, or PV, panels which directly convert sunlight into electricity.
“Siemens has the greatest market share,” because it got in early with turbines sized correctly for solar-thermal plants, said Nathaniel Bullard, a San Francisco-based solar analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “But Japanese companies were known to be pursuing orders for U.S. projects that are now defunct.”
The Indian developers declined to disclose the value of the turbine orders. In total, the units may be worth approximately $150 million, according to Jenny Chase, New Energy Finance’s lead solar analyst.
The Indian government awarded licenses for 470 megawatts of solar-thermal capacity to Lanco, Reliance Power, Aurum, Godawari Power & Ispat Ltd., KVK Energy & Infrastructure Pvt., Megha Engineering & Infrastructures Ltd, and Abhijeet Group’s Corporate Ispat Alloys Ltd. The plants, ranging in size from 20 to 100 megawatts each, will be the biggest of the 1,500 megawatts of solar capacity planned in India by early 2013.
The companies won the contracts in December 2010 by outbidding experienced solar-thermal developers like Spain’s Abengoa SA and to sell power at an average price of 11,650 rupees ($220) a megawatt-hour when complete. That’s about 18 percent below the global average, according to New Energy Finance’s data.
Reliance Power ordered units from Areva for its 100-megawatt plant, according to a presentation the company e-mailed to Bloomberg News on Jan. 3. It declined to provide details on how the project is funded.
Megha Engineering ordered a 50-megawatt turbine from GE in November, and raised financing from a group of banks led by IDBI Bank Ltd., Uma Maheshwar, associate vice president at Megha’s clean energy unit said in a phone interview on Jan. 3. Abhijeet’s Corporate Ispat ordered a 50-megawatt Siemens turbine in September and raised money from the Bank of India and the Indian Overseas Bank, M.K. Prasad, senior vice president of solar at parent Abhijeet Group, said by phone on Jan. 3.
Lanco, which is setting up its own 100-megawatt plant and also building and procuring for KVK Energy’s 100-megawatt plant, has ordered Siemens turbines, Lanco Solar Chief Executive Officer V. Saibaba said in a November interview.
Godawari ordered a Siemens turbine for its 50-megawatt project and awarded a $123 million contract to India’s Jyoti Structures Ltd. and Abilene, Texas-based Lauren Engineers & Constructors to design and build the plant, Godawari Managing Director B.L. Agrawal said by telephone on Jan. 4. The Bank of Baroda is financing the project.
Aurum expects to select its supplier for its 20-megawatt plant by Jan. 20, Chief Operating Officer Shreerang Athalye said by phone this week. Work on the site has begun and the company is in talks with lenders for the project at Porbandar, Gujarat.
An inability to raise money prompted NTR Plc, the Dublin-based owner of Tessera Solar, to write off 42.4 million euros ($54.2 million), its entire investment in solar-thermal, in August after selling two U.S. projects to developers who chose to dump the technology. Germany’s Solar Millennium AG scrapped thermal devices for PV panels at the world’s largest solar project in California before filing for bankruptcy last month.