US energy firm to power state economy

Hindustan Times 2008-05-12

There is good news for the state with a strong possibility of more investment and jobs.

US-based green energy firm Astonfield Renewable Resources Limited (ARRL) is planning to set up a plant to manufacture solar power panels in the state along with a major Japanese electronics conglomerate.

ARRL officials said the Japanese delegation is likely to visit Kolkata early next month to meet chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and other senior ministers. In what should be music to the chief minister�Äôs ears, the projects are likely to generate around 5,000 jobs.

According to Astonfield co-chairman Sourabh Sen, the solar panel factory is being set up on invitation from the state government. "The delegation from Japan will meet Bhattacharjee, industries minister Nirupam Sen and IT minister Debesh Das to work out the details," he said.

Although Sen refused to name the Japanese electronics corporation, he said that it is a highly respected international firm. ARRL sources said that Japanese electronics majors, who also manufacture thin-film PV solar panels, include Sharp, Sanyo and Konica.

"Bhattacharjee has shown personal interest in the factory for solar power panels. While we would be the joint venture partner along with the Japanese, we would be co-investor, plant manager and also a major consumer," the Astonfield co-chairman said.

The government has earmarked land in Rajarhat. "We would prefer land in rural areas because of Astonfield�Äôs promise of providing jobs in underdeveloped areas. However, since we need shipping conveniences it has to be near Kolkata," said Sen.

Unlike many other interested investors, ARRL does not want the government to be involved in the land acquisition process. "We will buy land directly from the owners. While the proposed solar panel factory needs between 100 and 150 acres, we will start approaching local landowners once the location has been finalized," Sen said.

ARRL recently bought 26 acres at Bankura for a 5 MW solar power plant and will buy a 20 acre plot at Gangarampur in South Dinajpur to set up a 10-mega watt biomass power plant.

"We directly approached proprietors at Gangarampur and hope to finalise deals with 17 landowners within the next week."