India Group Starts on $10 Billion Plan for Solar Power

A subsidiary of one of India’s largest conglomerates announced two deals as part of its plan to invest more than $10 billion in renewable energy assets over the next few years.

Reliance New Energy Solar (RNESL), part of Reliance Industries Ltd., on Oct. 10 said it was buying Norwegian-headquartered solar panel maker REC Solar Holdings for $771 million from China National Bluestar (Group) Co Ltd. RNESL also announced a deal to buy as much as a 40% stake in India-based solar construction company Sterling & Wilson. The company also reiterated its plans to build module production facilities, including a 1-GW modules plant in the U.S.

Reliance, owned by Mukesh Ambani, considered one of the wealthiest people in Asia and ranked as the world’s 11th-richest person by Bloomberg, in June said it would invest $10.1 billion in clean energy projects by 2025. The company said that investment was part of the company’s plan to build at least 100 GW of solar power generation capacity by 2030, more than a fifth of India’s goal to install 450 GW of renewable energy capacity this decade.

India today relies on coal for more than 70% of its electricity generation; just 4% of the country’s power comes from solar energy. The country is in the midst of a shortage of coal that has caused power outages in some parts of India, though the country’s coal ministry on Sunday said state-run Coal India is using its stockpile of the fuel to replenish supplies at impacted utilities.

Ambani in a statement Sunday said Reliance is preparing to establish “a global-scale integrated photovoltaic giga factory” for production of solar panels, which he said would begin with annual production capacity of 4 GW, then rising to 10 GW. Ambani said buying REC Solar would help Reliance expand its footprint to the U.S., Europe, and Australia, as well as elsewhere in Asia. Reliance wants to add renewable energy to its diverse business portfolio, which includes oil and natural gas, petrochemicals, retail, telecommunications, mass media, and textiles.

“Together with our other recent investments, Reliance is now ready to … make India a manufacturing hub for lowest cost and highest efficiency solar panels,” Ambani said.

Energy Storage Investment

RNESL in August said it would invest $50 million in Ambri, a  Massachusetts-based energy storage company, as part of a $144 million investment in that company from RNESL, investment management firm Paulson & Co., and U.S. business magnate Bill Gates.

Ambani in announcing his company’s investment in Ambri said it was another part of the company’s “decarbonization goals. Our investment in Ambri is part of our broader plan to develop the Dhirubhai Ambani Green Energy Giga Complex, which will be among the largest integrated renewable energy manufacturing facilities in the world and the epicenter of India’s Green Economy movement.”

The deals announced Sunday expand Reliance’s manufacturing and construction capabilities in the solar sector. REC manufactures solar-grade polysilicon along with solar panels and modules at facilities in Singapore and Norway. Reliance on Sunday said it is acquiring all of REC’s assets; REC has more than 1,300 employees.

Sterling & Wilson is a leading renewable energy construction company that has built more than 11 GW of solar power generation capacity worldwide. The group has a presence in 24 countries.
Ambani is his statement said the deals are “in line with our strategy of investing in new and advanced technologies and operating capabilities aimed at achieving Reliance’s goal of enabling 100 GW [of] clean and green energy before the end of this decade.”

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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