French specialist Ciel et Terre bets big on Floating Solar in India

France-based floating solar specialist Ciel & Terre launched a new subsidiary in Bangalore, a new manufacturing line in Maharashtra, and is set to deliver floats to its first 5MW project in West Bengal. The firm will start with its proprietary Hydrelio system which it uses for floating solar.  The Lille based firm is privately held.

Stéphane Prouvost, CEO, Ciel & Terre India, says that firm is working on projects spread throughout India, although Bangalore the capital of Karnataka is a suitable base given the sizeable tenders coming out of the nearby state of Kerala and other parts of South India.

Prouvost said there are two main markets for floating PV in India. The first is the captive market for commercial and industrial (C&I) customers since India has many conglomerates that own huge water bodies and reservoirs, particularly in heavy industries like steel and thermal power. Power from the grid for such companies comes at more than 6-9 rupees per unit, whereas floating solar can offer power at less than five rupees.

India also faces high water stress. Some large companies have to import pumped water from hundreds of kilometres away due to restrictions on water use outside of agriculture in certain regions. This is both polluting and expensive while floating solar is able to significantly reduce the rates of evaporation on these large water bodies due to the cooling and shading effect of the modules on the water.

The second major floating solar market in India is for utility-scale tenders put out by distribution companies (Discoms).

Manufacturing plant

Ciel & Terre’s 50MW manufacturing line is running in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. Some of the machinery has been imported, while high-density polyethylene (HDPE) has also been imported for the Hydrelio product. The firm is already in the process to expand the manufacturing line up to 100MW annual capacity.

It sees India as a major floating PV market and is encouraged with many states pushing for big projects, including Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.

Ciel & Terre tends to open manufacturing lines in Southeast Asia markets where floating PV is installed, since transporting large floats is costly and manufacturing locally can also drive local employment.

5MW in West Bengal

The company plans to supply is floats to a 5MW project on a raw water pond at Sagardighi Thermal Power Project, Murshidabad, West Bengal, following a 10MW tender from West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited (WBPDCL).

The French company said it will also provide technology solutions along with the design and customize the floating structure to take the shape of the reservoir. It will install the anchoring system after studying local wind conditions, water level variation and soil computation.

The company will also soon start installing the anchoring system at the West Bengal site and there are plans to extend the project to 15MW in size.

Forecasting a surge in demand for floating solar technology in India, Ciel & Terre is also in discussion with Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) for a 170MW floating PV project at the Rihand Dam in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest dam by volume.

Safeguard Duty effects

While the Indian Ministry of Finance’s decision to impose a 25% safeguard duty on cell and module imports will certainly pose a challenge to the overall solar industry, it is seen as a boon to floating solar, which is in constant competition with ground-mount PV. Ground-mount is cheaper than floating PV, but a higher overall cost of modules for both technologies under the duties can make the overall cost difference between both technologies less pronounced.

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