More power to solar

Going solar is the latest addition to the Agrawal Group of Companies.

By Meenal Bale

L-R: Anurag Agrawal, Krishnakumar Agrawal, Anirudh Agrawal

FOUNDED IN 1950 by Gangadhar Agrawal, the Agrawal Group of Companies has today become a notable name across multiple industries. Beginning with iron ore mining and then venturing into the wide sector of ship-building, followed by establishing a niche in the renewable energy sector, the Agrawal Group of Companies was the first to build Goa’s first barge, followed by a self-designed ore beneficiation unit, and later diversified into engineering and manufacturing businesses. Today, the group has sub-divided its holdings into barge-handling and repairs, construction and real estate development, pharmaceuticals, etc.

The company has three directors – Krishnakumar and his sons Anirudh and Anurag. In 2004, the Group began its tryst with renewable energy. They first installed windmills with 105 megawatt capacity. One of the latest additions to the Group is Agrawal Renewable Energy Private Limited (AREPL). Established in January 2012, it is a fully automated unit that undertakes projects under the wind and solar power sector.

“Our core product is solar polycrystalline panels called ‘Dhoop’. Basically used for power generation, it also provides solutions such as cordless solar fans, solar lanterns, solar street lights, solar home lighting systems, solar garden lighting, and solar water pumping systems, among others. Via the solar power plants, we undertake rooftop projects where we install panels that can be used by industries as well as individual consumers, either tied to the grid or independently. In the megawatt category, we also have ground mounted utility scale projects in other states,” says Anirudh Agrawal.

Whether it is a feasibility study to install a panel on the rooftop or factory, on a utility scale, or if you want to generate power and sell it to an electricity board or a consumer independently, AREPL assembles and provide solutions. Approved channel partners with certifications from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), certified by the Underwriters Laboratories Inc (UL) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), they are also ISO 9001:2008, ISO 14001:2004 and ISO 18001:2007 certified.

AREPL provides an optimum and clean solution for electricity generation. Apart from the fact that it is eco-friendly, what made the company venture into this industry? “We visited a few solar exhibitions in countries like Italy and Germany and we saw a good future for solar energy in India, especially in the rooftop segment. Although land is scarce, every roof should have a solar panel. In foreign countries, if there is a resource, they rigorously follow this concept,” elaborates Anurag.

After the exhibition, they visited a few manufacturing facilities and once the equipment was ordered, Anirudh along with the GM stayed in the manufacturers’ facilities to learn the operations. “When we studied the business, we gained that, due to lack of moving parts, repair maintenance is minimal. It is much simpler and more predictable, compared to wind. These machines are highly technical and automated; there is no supplier or manufacturer in India for this yet,” says Anirudh.

Post completing his engineering in Goa, Anirudh acquired his MBA in General Management from the American University in Washington DC, USA and joined the business in 2003, beginning with studying the renewable sector right away. The company provides a ‘concept-to-commissioning’ kind of service.

“A lot of people confuse water heating systems and power generating systems. If someone cites an interest in solar, we first explain to them about solar power. Today, selling solar power has become very cost-effective. It is very viable to even sell it in the open market to consumers. A lot of foreign firms investing in India are now looking for private players,” reveals Anirudh.

The company has a work force of 50-odd people, with the general manager having over nine years experience in the manufacturing of solar panels. The staff also comprises of three supervisors with a sound knowledge of the industry. There is only one manual process that involves delicate finger work and is ideally done by women. Out of the overall strength, 60% are female. There are also people who conduct project studies, site inspection and feasibility analysis across the country, when commissioned.

arepl-factoryAwarded the ‘Best Emerging Brand in Solar Power in India’ at the Renewable Energy India (REI) Expo in 2015, the company has about 9.5 megawatt projects in Karnataka under the ‘Solar rooftop net metering scheme’, a three megawatt project commissioned in Rajasthan, a five megawatt project in Uttar Pradesh and a five megawatt project with a plant running for the last three years in Maharashtra, where the plants have not witnessed any degradation and has been stable. “We have three years of data generated and, over these years, we are consistently performing better than some of the biggest panel manufacturers in the world. In Goa, we have done two rooftop projects on our factories. We started the manufacturing for ourselves, to use it in our power plant. Hence, our USP has been, is and will always remain the quality in each of our projects,” claims Anirudh.

Most of the companies have devised the name of their products with the word ‘solar’ embedded in it. But being an Indian company, AREPL wanted an Indian feel and name, hence went with the name ‘Dhoop’. When asked about one of their most challenging projects, Anirudh says “The project in Rajasthan. For a three-kilometre line, because of ‘right of way’, we faced a lot of challenges in the commissioned project and it took us much longer than expected. Ours was the first project under open access in Rajasthan.” AREPL can be categorised in a very niche segment as they are not just manufacturers and sellers, but use their self manufactured panels in their own power plants. Plus, they are also one of the few companies approved in Research Design and Standards Organisation by the Ministry of Railways and have set up two projects in railway stations. “We have projects coming up in Rajashthan and Karnataka. Our total plant based at Curti, Ponda is 40 megawatts and our target is around 25 megawatts of solar power for ourselves every year and we plan to sell about 15 megawatt panels in the open market. With the Narendra Modi government promoting solar power, awareness has increased in the last couple of years. On a national level, there are a lot of good projects and incentives being offered by the government. Unfortunately, at the state level, there is hardly any development. We have been in regular touch with the Goa Energy Development Agency, trying to push the policy. We are hoping something materialises quickly,” he concluded.

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