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Asia Report: Tweaking India's Domestic Content Policy

India's solar energy policy contains domestic content requirements for solar cells and panels, but initially these excluded thin-film technologies — a big help to First Solar among others. But as expected, new proposals aim to close that loop.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is inviting bids through the end of May for up to 750 MW of solar capacity, nearly half of which (around 300 MW) will be required to use domestic solar cells and panels — and not imported thin-film technology, according to MNRE joint-secretary Tarun Kapoor, quoted by Bloomberg. Grants will be extended to cover 30 percent of up-front project costs, awarded to developers on a least-needed basis, with totals of up to 18.75 billion rupees ($348 million). India's government aims to add roughly 20 gigawatts (GW) of grid-tied solar energy in the next decade.

Domestic content requirements are a key concern in varied disputes between a number of countries and regions, from Asia to North America to Europe. Ontario just lost its appeal to the WTO over its domestic content provisions (as was expected). Look for this to be a persistent sticking point among other trade disputes.


China to EU: Don't Drop the Boulder: The European Commission finally revealed its recommendations for penalties on Chinese solar cells and modules. Naturally China disagrees, pointing out this would muddy broader trade talks: "Provoking trade friction with China [is like] dropping a boulder on one's own foot," according to Shen Danyang, China's Ministry of Commerce spokesman, quoted by Reuters. The first official EC ruling is expected in June.

Tata to Float Its Clean Energy Biz: Tata Power is beefing up its clean energy business for a possible IPO next year, according to Bloomberg. The utility aims to increase its wind and solar capacity almost fivefold through March 2014, and thinks the unit could reach 300 MW of capacity, which would make it more attractive to investors. "There will be huge interest, provided its priced in the right manner," said Abhishek Patel, an analyst with ITI Securities. Other analysts question the move amid a soft domestic IPO market of late, and challenges in India's power sector overall from an aging grid to struggling distribution companies.

ABD Funding Renewables Projects in India, Azerbaijan: The Asian Development Bank has been busy these past few weeks. In its first equity investment for hydropower in India, and its first for an Indian renewable power generation company, the ADB is giving $30 million to India's NSL Renewable Power Private Ltd. (NRPPL) to support hydro and wind power projects, including construction of the 100-MW Tidong run-of-river hydro project in Himachal Pradesh, and the 75-MW Chilarewadi wind project in Maharashtra. NRPPL had 185 MW of operational projects at the end of 2012 spanning hydro, wind, biomass, and solar, with another 336 MW in its pipeline. The ADB also considering loaning up to $40 million for a pair of combined heat and power (CHP) biomass projects in Azerbaijan. The two pilot cogeneration installations in the Oghuz and Agjabedi regions of the country would amount to 16 MW, and potentially serve as a template for future & bigger projects in the region.

OneWind Australia Formed, With 1-GW Portfolio: Denham Capital is investing $75 million to accelerate development of a 1-GW portfolio of wind energy projects in Australia being developed by Enersis Australia, National Power, and Kato Capital. Their combined efforts, dubbed OneWind Australia, will initially focus on late-stage development and financing of several Australian projects, including Glen Innes (100-MW in New South Wales), Lincoln Gap (250-MW in South Australia), and Cattle Hill (240-MW in Tasmania). Those three projects are said to cost $800 million to develop, mostly through debt. The goal is to achieve financial closing on several phases in the second half of 2013 or in 2014.

Wind Energy Down Payment in Pakistan: Nordex says it has received a "firmly financed order" for its FWEL II 50-MW wind farm in Pakistan, one of five 50-MW deals in its local pipeline. FWEL II, majority-owned by the Fauji Foundation and located in the Sindh province about 80 km from Karachi, is slated to go online in 2014.

Solaria Expands Into China: Solaria says it has established a business office in China. The company currently has several MW-size projects under construction in the Qinghai province and Inner Mongolia. Meanwhile, China Merchants New Energy Group and Xinjiang Production Construction Corps Investment Co. will pool together 3 billion yuan (US $489 million) to develop 300 MW of solar power plants in China's western region of Xinjiang by 2015.

Tamil Nadu's First 60-MW Plant Approved: Welspun Energy has won a contract to develop a 60-MW solar power plant in Tamil Nadu, the first since the government began accepting bids in December. Location will be selected in the next month. The state wants to install 5 GW of solar power by 2020.

Yingli, China Power In Module Deal: Yingli Green Energy says it will supply 220 MW of solar PV modules this year to China Power Investment Corporation, for use in five PV power plants being developed in China's Hebei and Qinghai Provinces. Also with a new contract in hand is LDK Solar, which will provide roughly 500 MW of silicon wafers to China's Realforce Power, shipping this month through December 2014. No pricetag was disclosed.

World Bank Arm Lends to Indian Solar Company: International Finance Corp., the private-sector financing arm of the World Bank, will lend up to $50 million to Acme Solar Energy Pvt. for a 25-MW solar PV power plant in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The funds could also extend to other projects in the states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.

Chinese Hydro Project Sold: China Hydroelectric Corp. has completed the sale of the 30-MW Yuheng hydroelectric project to an undisclosed buyer, according to HydroWorld. The sale was done in October 2012 for $44.3 million, for a net profit of 20.8 million.

Wind Energy Mapping in Bangladesh: The Power Development Board (PDB) wants to conduct more wind resource mapping in Bangladesh's coastal, offshore, and inland areas to assess feasibility for power generation, and has recruited NREL from the US and India's Regen Power Ltd. to help at several sites. Anywhere from 50-200 of wind-power generation have been identified.

Tonga Readying Its First Small Wind Turbine: Tonga's first small wind turbine project is expected to begin operation any day now, according to a local report. The project at Nakolo village with a 11-kW capacity wind turbine, funded by Tonga Power and expected to be commissioned later this month, "is more for the experience and is not specifically to reduce the diesel usage," according to a local government rep.

Chinese Solar Panel Maker "Cooked Its Books": Trony Solar "massively over-reported sales and production data during the period leading to its IPO in 2010, according to a local report. Two anonymous former managers told the South China Morning Post that the company's sales and production capacity were roughly 10 percent or less than what the company claimed. Last summer the company revealed it had found "possible discrepancies" in its financial data; since then there's been an exodus of execs.

Polysilicon Plant in Malaysia: Saudi firm Project Management & Development Company Ltd. (PMD) says it will develop a $1.6 billion polysilicon manufacturing plant in Malaysia's eastern state of Sarawak. The plant, scheduled to be online by 2016, will be run by the company's Kuala-Lumpur based affiliate, Cosmos Petroleum & Mining Sdn Bhd.


Breathing Room for CSP in India: The MNRE is considering an extension to commissioning deadlines for solar thermal (CSP) projects. The NSM-Phase One in December 2010 allocated 470 MW of CSP to be commissioned by May 2013 with penalties for delays, but zero projects will end up meeting this deadline -- seven projects totaling 470 MW were supposed to be ready but aren't operational and by the rules could fork over 2.3 billion rupees ($42.5 million) in performance guarantees. So the MNRE is mulling an extended deadline for another 10 months. With roughly 1 GW of CSP allocated in 2014 in Phase Two of the NSM, aimed to apply significant lessons learned from the initial CSP efforts, now would be the time to rethink India's strategy to CSP.

Best of Both Water Worlds: Wind and Ocean Power in Japan: A group in Japan aims to install a hybrid wind-current power generation system off the coast of Japan later this year. The Savonius Keel & Wind Turbine Darrieus (SKWID) system, developed by Mitsui Ocean Development & Engineering Company (MODEC), has a rectangular-swept area that catches more wind and thus delivers more power than similar-sized turbines with a circular-swept area, the company claims; beneath the waves is a split-cylinder bucket that rotates at the speed of current.


Japan's PV Market: The Next Big Thing?: Some industry analysts suggests Japan could surge to be the second-largest PV market in the world this year, thanks in no small part to its still-friendly tariff structure. Already with a well-established rooftop PV sector, more "mega-solar" projects coming online are causing to experience grid issues. Junko Movellan takes a closer look at what's driving Japan's solar market.

Meanwhile, here's a roundup of recent Japanese solar projects in the works: Japan Asia Group Ltd. plans 500 MW of solar projects over the next three years, with specific projects and financing details expected to emerge in June; Nippon Paper Industries aims to build a 21-MW solar power plant in Komatsushima, Tokushima Prefecture, beginning construction this fall and selling power by late 2014 to Shikoku Electric Power Co; and Eurus Energy, a Toyota Tsusho-Tokyo Electric Power joint venture, is proposing a 115-MW power station in Rokkasho village, Aomori prefecture, to begin construction this summer and come online in November 2015, costing an estimated ¥49 billion (US $480 million). And ABB's factory rooftop solar PV install in Izunokuni city, Shizuoka, is now feeding energy into the grid, under a 20-year deal with the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). The 1040-panel installation is expected to generate about half the factory's peak electricity demand, and serve as a showcase for various ABB solar components, from inverters to junction boxes to transformers and a ring main unit.


April 10-April 23, 2013 Asia Report: Balancing China's Solar PV Market Volatility

Mar. 27-April 9, 2013 Asia Report: Solar in "Emerging" Asia

Mar. 21-26, 2013 Asia Report: Let the Suntech Fallout Begin

Mar. 13-20, 2013 Asia Report: Is Japan's Solar Market Overheating?

Lead image: Solar Energy - Asia, via Shutterstock

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