SunEdison considers fully integrated PV manufacturing site in India

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Updated: Major PV energy provider, SunEdison, has added Gujarat, India to the list of potential sites for its plans to become a fully integrated PV manufacturer. 

The US-based fabless photovoltaics energy provider (PVEP) said in a stateent that it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Indian conglomerate, Adani Enterprises to establish a joint venture (JV) fully integrated (polysilicon to module) manufacturing cluster in Mundra, Gujarat at a cost of around US$4 billion. 

Adani Enterprises operates coal mines, power stations, grids and ports in India and has plans to tap coal reserves in Australia. 

The MOU announcement was made on the sidelines of Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosting an investment summit, Vibrant Gujarat in the province Sunday, November 11. 

“We are proud to partner with Adani Enterprises to build the largest solar photovoltaic manufacturing facility in India. This facility will create ultra-low cost solar panels that will enable us to produce electricity so cost effectively it can compete head to head, unsubsidized and without incentives, with fossil fuels.” said Ahmad Chatila, President and Chief Executive Officer of SunEdison. “By pairing SunEdison’s solar technology expertise with Adani’s extensive experience in the creation of infrastructure, we will be able to transform the region into a solar production powerhouse, creating 4,500 direct jobs and over 15,000 indirect jobs in the process.”

“India has embarked on an ambitious program to become a world leader in power generation from renewable technologies, and sees solar as a key part in realizing that goal,” said Vneet S Jaain, Chief Executive Officer of Adani Power Limited, a subsidiary of Adani Enterprises Ltd. “The development of the largest integrated solar manufacturing facility furthers the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign. We are happy to partner with SunEdison, a leading solar technology manufacturer to build this facility which further integrates our power – renewable business value chain and has significant socio-economic benefits.” 

The Indian Prime Minister has recently made headlines around the world over plans to drastically increase PV installations across the country, raising targets from 20GW by 2022 to 100GW in the same period. The bigger ambitions were designed to attract massive investments from around the world to achieve those goals and significantly reduce chronic electricity shortages that has dogged the country for many years. 

However, despite the headlines of a deal between SunEdison and Adani Enterprises, the US PVEP has already touted potential manufacturing deals in Saudi Arabia and China. 

In October, 2014 Ahmad Chatila, president and CEO of SunEdison said that the company was in discussions with a potential Chinese partner to build a US$2 billion FBR (fluidized bed reactor) polysilicon plant in the country with an initial capacity of 20,000 to 30,000MT.

In February, 2014 SunEdison said it was undertaking a feasibility study with the Government of Saudi Arabia on establishing a fully integrated PV manufacturing complex, including polysilicon production through to module assembly in the country at an estimated cost of US$6.4 billion.

Currently, SunEdison has relied on outsourced solar cell and module production to meet its in-house PV project pipeline and recent move into the residential PV market in the US and UK. The company had been a major polysilicon producer and wafer producer until spinning off SunEdison Semiconductor in a separate IPO. 

Ambitions to establish fully integrated in-house production was driven by cost competitive and demand to supply related issues as well as supply chain issues over US and EU anti-dumping duties. 

India is not affected by anti-dumping duties, neither is Saudi Arabia. Many Chinese manufacturers have been considering establishing PV manufacturing plants outside China, including Malaysia, Mexico and within the US to avoid duties. 

JV review period

In an official statement, SunEdison noted that it would be undertaking a study to determine the viability of the project and JV during the first half of 2015. Should the study successfully determine the viability of the MOU plan, SunEdiosn said that elements of the project could start soon after. 

SunEdison noted that individual manufacturing elements would potentially ramp at different stages through the expected three year construction phase, which would enable key production lines to come online before the entire facility is finished, enabling a faster ramp and job creation. 

Therefore, as a typical polysilicon plant (dependent on scale & technology) can take as long as three years to build and start ramping production, it would seem realistic to expect module, cell and wafering operations to potentially be built and operated first, finishing with long-term support from the polysilicon plant. 

However, SunEdison has yet to announce further developments in respect to the feasibility study and business plans previously announced in Saudi Arabia and China. 

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