US firm to set up 500-mw renewable energy projects

Financial Express 2008-06-25

US-based Astonfield Renewable Resources, a subsidiary of Astonfield Management, is planning to set up a nationwide renewable energy projects of 500 mw. The company will take up these greenfield projects over the next 5 to 7 years.

It?Äôs for the first time ever such greenfield projects with more than a megawatt solar power capacity is going to be set up in the country. The country?Äôs total solar energy output is estimated to be around only 2.5 mw, mostly supported by government programme and NGOs. According to top officials with Astonfied, in the first phase solar power projects worth 160 mw will be commissioned over the next 3 years along with 140 mw of biomass projects.

We understand the difficulties in convincing people about adopting to the green technology and changing to renewable energy sources like solar,?Ä? Sourabh Sen, director, Astonfield Management Ltd told FE.

According to Sen, the company will invest more than $1 billion over the next three years, focusing on essentially areas like solar, biomass and biogas. Astonfield is setting up a solar power plant at Bankura, West Bengal, with 5 mw capacity for which the power purchasing agreement has already been approved by West Bengal electricity board.

The West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA) has approved three projects comprising a 10 mw biomass-based power plant, a 5-mw solar photo voltaic plant and a 1- mw manure to power plant to Astonfield to start with.

Besides, the company is in talks with other state government officials in Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana for setting up power plants based on renewable energy. At present only West Bengal, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana have approved policies through which the state electricity departments can buy solar or other renewable power from private players.

We are in talks with other states such as Bihar, Kerala, J&K, Maharashtra and Karnataka for formulating attracting policies on solar or renewable power,?Ä? Sen said.

At present, the cost of installation of a solar power plant ranges from $5 to $5.5 million (more than Rs 100 crore) per megawatt. While a conventional thermal plant needs an investment of $1 million (around 21 crore) for producing one mw of energy, Sen said the company is in talks with global manufacturers of solar panels to set up plants in West Bengal and other states where the company plans to build power stations for cutting down on cost.

Astonfield is expecting greater returns from the solar power business as the tariff is likely to drop in years to come. ?ÄúSolar power tariffs are expected to fall in the range of 25-30% in the next 3-4 years as production is set to rise drastically,?Ä? Ameet Shah, co-director, Astonfield Management said.