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About 40 kilometres from Delhi, in the bustling real estate market of Noida-Greater Noida, lies the biggest irony that the renewable energy industry faces. Indosolar, the country’s largest manufacturer of solar photovoltaic cells, has set up a 400 megawatt unit. Its entrance is slick and ultra-modern, typifying the product it manufactures. Stepping into the 28,000 square metre production unit, one is struck by the shimmering clean, futuristic and sleek production line, symbolic of the clean future that solar power promises.
Polysilicon wafers, the raw material, can be fed at the starting point. Solar cells, efficiently packed in boxes, can be collected at the end point. But none of this is happening. The production line stands still. One production line of Indosolar stopped making cells in January last year. The other was shut down a few months later in September. In fact, at present, 80 per cent of the country’s manufacturing capacity is shut.
Herein lies the irony. Why is India’s largest solar cell maker not producing at a time when the country is in the midst of implementing its most ambitious and arguably the world’s quickest solar energy mission?
The answer is simple, yet perplexing. “We have no orders,” says Rahul Gupta, who set up Indosolar in 2009. “We took the pains to get the most modern manufacturing units designed in Austria. Our in-house research and development increased the efficiency of our cells remarkably. As Rajasthan and Gujarat have gone into an overdrive and are installing hundreds of megawatts of solar energy, it should have been heydays for Indian manufacturers. Instead, there is bankruptcy, loan restructuring and pleas to the government for support against international competition,” he rues.
The sunshine industry, literally and figuratively, has been allowed to fade away. There are loopholes in the existing policies. While foreign manufacturers dump their products at dirt cheap prices in the country, domestic manufacturers are finding it hard to compete.
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