Chinese Solar Inverters

The Chinese solar panel producers have become dominant players in the global solar panel industry, with almost 7 out of the top 10 solar panel Solar Inverterproducers being from China. The solar inverter space had not seen inroads being made by the Chinese companies, as they were dominated by European companies such as ABB, SMA Solar, Kaco and others, because of the higher technology intensity of solar inverters as compared to solar panels.

However, even this bastion of the Europeans have been destroyed by the Chinese companies who have used their traditional weapon of super cheap costs of exterminating their global competitors. Huawei the Chinese telecom giant has made huge progress in the solar inverter market, becoming the No.1 player in the global market. The Chinese companies such as TBEA, Sungrow and others have used their massive domestic market to become large global players.

Read more about Solar Inverters here.

Now they are using their scale to enter new foreign markets which are still dominated by the Europeans and Americans. Like in solar panels, Chinese solar inverter makers have drastically reduced the prices of solar inverters. While solar inverters in 2011 used to sell for 30-40 cents/watt, now they sell for as low as 5 cents/watt.

Working on low margins and huge scale, the Chinese have vanquished the global large players like SMA, who used to make billions of dollars from solar inverter sales sold at high margins. The 3 phase and string inverter segments have been easy pickings for the Chinese solar inverter companies. Only some inverter companies such as Solaredge have managed to escape the low cost low margin trap set up by the Chinese. SMA Solar is trying to diversify into the energy storage market in order to move away from the commodity industry that normal solar inverters have become.

Top 10 Solar Inverter Companies globally

Approximately 50% of the top 10 solar inverter rankings are now taken up by the Chinese:

1 Huawei
2 Sungrow
3 SMA Solar
5 TBEA Sunoasis
7 Wuxi Sineng
8 Schneider Electric
9 Power Electronics
10 SolarEdge

Source: IHS

Unemployment in India

India’s employment situation is nothing less than a massive crisis situation, with millions of workers joining the workforce every year without even 10% of the required jobs being created. The Indian reforms stated in 1991 did not lead to major employment generation, as most of the value creation was done through capital intensive means. The problems in labor laws has been a major reason for the capital intensive path that the Indian industry has taken till now. It has also led to the contract model, where most organizations use short term contracts to hire people.

This has led to low wages and job insecurity, while organized workers have become a privileged class doing less work for much higher wages. This problem unemploymentis most acutely seen in the government sector, which has high wages and a situation of a job for life. This has led to millions of applications being seen for a paltry few hundred jobs of sweepers.

India’s employment situation is so bad that I think nothing can solve this crisis, with most workers fated to lead a low wage destitute life. In the first decade of the 21st century, large numbers of jobs were created as there was a massive boom in some sectors such as telecom, aviation, retail etc. However, the massively corrupt regime of the Congress in 2009 led to a sharp stop in job creation, as industry stopped growing. There were no reforms as large scale plundering took place, with a sizable growth of the black economy.

Government Measures to solve unemployment problem in India

Though the new Indian government has tried to solve this problem through new initiative such as Make in India, Skill India etc., the problem is too huge to be solved. The main cause is India’s population, which is the world’s second largest and soon to become the world’s largest. India’s resources in terms of land, water etc. is too small to cater to the demands of a billion plus population.

While India has shown huge growth in services, the employment situation has not improved too much. Even India’s IT industry which has been the main engine behind the development of a strong Indian middle class is getting saturated. The IT industry is steadily reducing new hires, as automation and new technologies reduce the requirement of large numbers of engineers. In the coming years, a large number of even existing IT professionals may be made redundant, as new technologies such as Big Data, Analytics and Social Media become more dominant.

Industry is also not expected to create too many jobs, given that robotics and automation have sharply reduced the number of workers required in factories. Too much global capacity already exists for India to develop large scale export industries. New sectors are not growing in India, to utilize the millions of educated and semi-skilled workers joining the ranks of the unemployed.

India needs a major war effort to tackle the growing employment crisis, which is already manifesting itself in the form of social unrest such as the Jat and Patel agitation. Unemployed youth can create a huge social problem as can be seen in many parts of the country.

E-Commerce sector in India

E-Commerce which has been a major new growth sector employing many people in logistics, IT and customer services is facing its own hour of crisis. Funding has sharply reduced to this cash burning sector, leading most firms to tighten their belts. Major employers such as Snapdeal and Flipkart have been laying off thousands of people, while some of the smaller players such as TinyOwl are shutting operations. News of new hires being left in limbo has become common, even as reputed companies such as Grofers fail to honor their word. Being left in the lurch by the e-commerce companies has become a common theme, leading to an exodus of talent from this sector.

 The number of startups that recruited from the institute during the latest placements season more than doubled to 125 from 56 a year ago. But prominent startups including Grofers, TinyOwl, Ola and Snapdeal that had registered for placements hiring at the institute dropped out.

Grofers, however, visited other campuses for placements.

“We visited more than 80 engineering and management campuses this year across India to offer various profiles at Grofers in design, marketing”


Isn’t IEA’s Fossil Fuel projections too optimistic

International Energy Agency (IEA) is the world’s premier source of global energy trends and forecasts. Its predictions and estimates are universally used by policy makers, company CEOs and investors to make plans regarding the future trajectory of energy demand and prices. However the institute has been failing to live up to its billings in the last 2-3 years making overly optimistic forecasts for fossil fuels, which are falling behind renewable energy with the costs of solar and wind declining and concerns over climate change growing. Solar energy costs have fallen drastically in the last couple of years, making it competitive with coal and gas .With improving technology solar energy is going to become much cheaper than coal and gas in most parts of the world by 2020. This coupled with its green character means that no new coal or gas plants may be installed after 7-8 years. However IEA is saying that India will keep growing its coal imports, even after solar becomes much cheaper. This dumb forecast is going to cost billions of dollars for companies and investors who make bets based on IEA forecasts.

Note IEA has been criticized by various analysts for making these foolish forecasts making unreasonable assumptions. While IEA acknowledges that solar and wind will become cheaper than fossil fuels in the future, it is way too far ahead in terms of years. It does not take an Einstein to say that solar and wind will be cheaper much earlier than what IEA is saying (2025 for wind and 2030 for solar energy).

Countries which depend on coal and gas exports will face a tough time just as oil exporters are facing currently. Australia which is planning to build massive coal mines and infrastructure may face massive wealth destruction as many assets become stranded. Global concerns over climate change are making people wary of fossil fuels especially coal. Prices have crashed to below $40/ton for coal and I don’t think it will recover significantly. The Aussies are already worried as India’s energy minister plans to completely stop thermal coal imports, by raising domestic production. The Aussies will have no place to ship their coal, as China is reducing its coal demand and the West is shutting the thermal power plants altogether.

IEA is still run by lobbies which are funded by the fossil fuel industry that prevents it from writing the truth that fossil fuels are in terminal decline now. The solar technology revolution has completely changed the energy paradigm and all fossil fuels will get decimated over time. Even crude oil which does not compete directly with solar energy will face pressure, as the penetration of EV technologies grows in the transport sector.

The IEA is forecasting the world’s seaborne thermal coal market will reach 1.06 billion tonnes by 2020, a reduction from its previous forecast, but still above many other analysts. It assumes India will increase its thermal coal imports to 204 million tonnes by the end of the decade, representing an increase of 73 million tonnes from 2014.

India’s Minister for Energy, Piyush Goyal?, has said India should be able to end thermal coal imports by 2017.

A win by US-based solar major SunEdison of a $US500 million, 500-megawatt solar auction in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh in November shocked the market with its pricing of 4.63 rupees per kilowatt-hour (US7.1¢/kWh), 10 per cent below the previous record low set three months earlier.

That pricing was regarded by many as irrational and as an aggressive chase for market share in the fast-growing market, until the award of a 350 MW contract in December to a consortium led by Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank at the same price.

The contracts should act as a warning to Australian coal exporters not to rely on IEA forecasts, Mr Buckley said.


NTPC to build solar plant in India

India’s government owned companies have never been good investments. The main reason is that profit maximization has never been their main objective, but they have mainly been used by the government and its ministers for their own personal reasons. They are highly corrupt organizations with many minsters and bureaucrats milking the organizations. A telecom minister is in the news these days for using 300 high speed lines from state owned telecom company at his residence for providing communication services to his brother’s company for free. There are numerous other cases.

Besides corruption, harebrained schemes are another huge problem for these companies. They do not have focus and go on a tangent making investments without rhyme or reason. NTPC which is one of the better run government companies is thinking of building a 1 GW poly to modules plant in India. Note NTPC is a power generating utility, without much experience in manufacturing of anything let alone solar panels or polysilicon. While the company is making big time investments in solar generation thanks to the government mandate of 100 GW by 2022 from 4 GW now, NTPC has no reason to start building a manufacturing plant for solar equipment. This is same as NTPC building boilers and turbines for its thermal power plants. The company has no competence and experience. It will be better off buying the equipment from firms specialized in this industry. I don’t think they have read Taylor’s rules on specialization.

The ostensible reason given for building the solar factory is that there is going to be huge demand in India and the government wants to bring down the total costs of a solar system from Rs 6/watt to Rs 4.5/watt . I don’t think in a million years will NTPC be able to compete on costs and efficiency compared to the likes of a SunPower or Trina Solar. Also there is going to be a massive demand in road building so should NTPC also start to quarry stones?

Softbank Solar Investment in India

India has become a hot magnet for large massive investment announcements in solar energy by companies, as the country aims to install a very ambitious 100 GW of solar energy by 2022 up from about 3.8 GW now. The company’s government organized a renewable energy conference in Feb 2015 in which companies such as SunEdison, Adanis, First Solar made announcements to set up tens of thousands of megawatts of solar and wind energy. But like the MOUs signed in investment summits, these announcements are mostly hollow and India might be lucky to see a fraction of these investments actually fructifying.

Now Softbank the glamorous Japanese conglomerate has also made a grandiose announcement of setting up a $20 billion investment in India’s RE sector. It has also lined up the Taiwanese electronics OEM giant Foxconn and India’s largest telecom operator Airtel to join it in a JV. What is funny is these three companies have very little experience in solar or wind energy. These companies have hardly done much in solar energy. Softbank’s claim to fame in solar energy is been to invest in Japanese solar farms which every Tom Dick and Harry in Japan has done because of the fabulous returns being given by the Japanese government. Like Softbank, a Japanese gaming parlor company has also invested in solar farms. Airtel does not know shit from a telecom handset and a solar panel, while Foxconn does not have much of a clue either. Foxconn 2-3 years ago has announced plans to set up massive gigawatt solar panel factories but till now has not set up even a 1 MW factory.

These companies now plan to invest $20 billion which seems very funny to me. These companies also plan to set up a panel manufacturing plant in AP. I have no clue why they want to do it, given that they have no experience or expertise. Why not just buy the panels from outside. These companies may build some plants but $20 billion looks like a pipedream and I think that even these companies know this.

This article is written by Sandeep Gupta. Working as a corporate professional, Sandeep has a passion for Solar in India.

Tata Solar Panel Review India

Tata Solar is a tier 1 bankable module manufacturer with 25 years history in India. It has one of the biggest and oldest solar panel manufacturing operations in India, having commissioned 175 MW of EPC projects, 43 MW of solar rooftop projects and exported 600 MW of modules till date. Tata Power Solar has a 200 MW and 180 MW of module and cell manufacturing facility located in Bangalore. Backed by the TATA group, one of the oldest industrial houses in India, Tata Solar is engaged in manufacturing and EPC services. Tata Solar has presence in industrial, commercial, both on-grid and off-grid solar projects and residential segments. Tata Solar is also the best solar lighting provider in India, given the brand name and in-house manufacturing of solar components. It has a range of Solar Lighting Solutions as well.

Given below are the types TATA Solar panels and applications

I. Standard Solar Modules: These modules comprises of TP and TS series, useful mainly for residential and commercial applications

Applications – Rooftop and utility scale projects

1) TP Series – They are robust and strong to withstand high wind and snowSolar Panel

i) TP 250 –

  • 60-cell multi-crystalline
  • Wattage ranging from 240Wp to 260Wp
  • 10 years product warranty and 25 years power warranty
  • Power output ranging 172.8-187.2 W
  • withstand snow loads of up to 5,400 Pa
  • positive power tolerance of up to 5W

ii) TP 300

  • 72-cell multi-crystalline
  • Wattage ranging from 280Wp to 305Wp
  • 10 years product warranty and 25 years power warranty
  • Power output ranging 201.6-219.6 W
  • withstand snow loads of up to 5,400 Pa
  • Positive power tolerance of up to 5W

2) TS Series – economical choice, designed for moderate environmental conditions

TS 250 –

  • 60-cell multi-crystalline
  • Wattage ranging from 235Wp to 250Wp
  • Power output ranging 169.2-180 W
  • 10 years product warranty and 10 year  90% / 25 year 80% power warranty

II. Speciality Modules

Applications – Indoor & outdoor lighting, street lighting, remote telecom sites and standalone systems for homes in remote locations, offshore installations and lighting billboards

1.Gold – Wide range of Tata Solar Gold series modules include the following: 10, 20, 37, 40, 50, 55, 60, 70, 75, 80, 90, 100, 125, 130, 150 and 190 Wp.

  • Multiple configurations (36, 48 and 72 cells)tata solar
  • Wattage ranging from 10Wp to 190Wp
  • Mono and multi-crystalline cells 125mm and 156mm
  • 5 years product warranty and 10 year 90% / 25 year 80% power warranty

2.Platinum – Wide range of Tata Solar Platinum series modules include the following: 5, 6, 10, 12, 18, 20, 24, 37, 65, 74, 80, 100, 125, 150 and 190 Wp.

  • Multiple configurations (36, 48 and 72 cells)
  • Positive power tolerance of up to 10%
  • Wattage ranging from 5Wp to 190Wp
  • Mono and multi-crystalline cells 125mm and 156mm
  • 5 years product warranty and 10 year 90% / 25 year 80% power warranty

If buying from Indian Solar Panel manufacturers, Tata Solar should be a good option since it is amongst the oldest in the country and also has its parent TATA Group’s support, it becomes a bankable brand in India. Also it offers a wide range of panels for residential, commercial and indoor and outdoor lighting system. I think it will be the company to serve the 25-year service warranty that comes with its panels. The company also provides other solar products like solar water pump and heater. You can buy Tata solar panels through a dealer,  buy Tata Solar online or directly from the company.