India Solar Auction Draws Goldman’s ReNew, First Solar

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s solar venture and U.S.-based First Solar Inc. bid for projects in India for the first time, enticed by government grants.

ReNew Solar Power Ltd. bid for 50 megawatts, according to a list from state-run Solar Energy Corporation of India. The company is a unit of ReNew Power Ventures Pvt., a developer backed by a $385 million investment from Goldman Sachs, Sumant Sinha, chief executive officer of ReNew Power, said by e-mail.

First Solar, the world’s biggest maker of thin-film modules and a top panel supplier in India, bid for 30 megawatts. The Tempe, Arizona-based company is diversifying into building plants and selling power, betting that’s a better way to make money than competing with Chinese rivals on panel sales.

The tender is the most attractive yet in a market expected to draw $11.7 billion of investment by 2017 as the cost of solar power drops to equal that of other sources, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. For the first time, India is offering grants that will improve plants’ revenue security by allowing them to produce power more cheaply rather than relying on cash-strapped state utilities to pay above-market tariffs.

World Bank-backed Azure Power India Pvt. and Welspun Energy Ltd., a unit of Leon Black’s Apollo Global Management LLC-backed Welspun Group, entered bids for the most capacity, 200 megawatts and 160 megawatts respectively.

Solar Energy Corp. will evaluate technical bids first and open the financial offers by the end of February, Managing Director Rajendra Nimje said this week. Previous tenders in the country drove rates for solar power down to record lows.

“Bidding will be more rational this time,” as a recovery in panel prices from a three-year slide and the rupee’s volatility raise project costs, Gaurav Sood, managing director of French developer Solairedirect SA’s local unit, said in an e-mail. Solairedirect, which bid for 30 megawatts of capacity, won a project with a record-low bid in a December 2011 auction after pledging to sell solar power 30 percent cheaper than the world average at the time.

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