We want to be a complete solar solution company banking on cost effective innovation
Micromax Energy Ltd, a part of the 15-year-old Micromax Group, forays its journey in the renewable energy space in India in August 2010 with a strong focus on innovation while customizing the cost effective product as per Indian need. Mukesh Gupta, Co-founder & Managing Director, Micromax Energy, who has an illustrious career, spanning over several decades in the technology and innovation, tells us how he brings his rich experience into the renewable energy sector.
Q.Please share your journey so far from an innovator to a successful entrepreneur?
I began my journey from a humble background. My education started from a simple school in Delhi and finally I completed my Graduation in electronics engineering & Masters in Instrument Technology from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi.
My professional career started with HCL in 1986 and then I joined Shyam Telecom, which is today’s MTS Group. There as the Head, R&D, I got great exposure to understand affordable telecom technologies through a visit in Taiwan.
After that I decided to venture in the power segment. I co-founded Su-Kam Inverter in 1996 as Technical Director. This venture taught me various valuable lessons that I used in all my later endeavour.
In 2001, I joined Microtek and developed an inverter. In just six months, I build up this new segment and within the next two years of time, Microtek stopped all previous operations and continued only with the inverter. It was a great confidence builder for me. After this success, I informed the company about my intention to go into solar space once my target in the inverter space is met. But, it was not accepted by Microtek due to some strategic reason.
At that point of time my idea was totally futuristic as renewable energy sector was quite nascent in India, in Europe too, talks were more on the line of renewable power generation, but certainly not on storage. I would share my idea on storing the solar energy during the day and feeding it to the grid to be supplied during night to investors. While many were impressed, there were several hurdles. For example, technology was very expensive in those days. The generation cost was very high and importantly commercial viability wasn’t clear to businessmen.
So, in 2007 along with four professors at IIT Delhi, I started, SUNURJA, a company to develop commercially viable solar technologies. Rather than producing energy, we were keener on storing energy in a battery from the Sun.
In 2010, I discussed with Mr Rajesh Agarwal, Chairman, Micromax Group about the idea of investing in the solar space and got his full support and encouragement. And, Micromax Energy was formed.
Q.Where does Micromax Energy stand in the Indian power segment?
We started with products related to solar Power generation & Solar system design. We recently signed a contract for the development of Indigenous Solar Inverter technology to work in sync with varied Indian power grid conditions.
Micromax energy main focus will be on energy sector weather it is an energy generation or energy saving or energy storage. As far as the team of Micromax Energy is concerned, the engineers are from the energy sector with a vast experience of more than 25 years. We have worked from the designing of the inverters to the end product. We understand the electronics and the power solutions for India. Present solutions available in India are with solar inverter, which are designed for stable grid conditions & are imported with the technology developed according to the need of developed countries where the grid conditions are very stable. India Grid power condition are very unstable & hence these inverters are more likely to enter into disconnect mode even when the solar power is available & cause loss of energy generation. We understood this gap and started developing an indigenous design that will not cause the loss of Energy Generation even in Indian unstable Grid conditions.
We found that in the Indian solar power sector needs a serious focus on product side as 60% of the solar panels are imported and as far as inverters are concerned, there is no Indian manufacturing company & design available to work in 100% sync with Indian unstable grid conditions. Therefore, we decided to fill this gap and developed new ranges of solar and energy saving solutions which are cost effective as well as completely in sync with Indian grid condition. Our vision at Micromax Energy is to be a complete solar solutions company.
Q.Why are the solutions offered by Micromax Energy unique with respect to the other solar solutions available in the Indian market?
In the solar business, all solutions can be bucketed under two broad categories – firstly, energy generation and distribution and secondly, energy storage for backup. At present, we focus on the second category. Energy storage solutions have been evolved a lot in the past decade. I would like to categorize the storage solutions under different generations considering the evolution path.
India being a country with the shortage of power, simple inverters are in use for the last 15 years. Here batteries get charged through grid power and stored power is used as backup during power cut situations to ensure continuous supply. This off grid solution or the first generation solution is mainly used at residential premises.
The conversion efficiency of this kind of inverters is generally in the range of 60- 80%, Hence , the cost of power used during power cut through this back up increases almost two times of the normal electricity cost. There is also an extra energy load on the grid for power requirement to charge the battery further creating more shortage in electricity.
The second generation solution or off grid solar inverter technology successfully addresses the power cost and grid overload related issues. In off grid solar inverters, batteries get charged through solar energy and acts as source of free power back up. This in turn, saves energy costs and ensures ensure no overload on the grid to charge the battery. This solution is quite effective for residential and office premises.
However, the second generation solutions are not capable enough to suffice the 24X7 huge load requirements in commercial or industrial entities. Therefore, the third generation or on grid solar solution comes into play. On grid solar solution also use solar energy as the free source of backup power and ensures uninterrupted power supply due to grid connectivity. Here, the extra energy produced through the solar system is sold to the grid through “Net Metering’ system. These on grid solar solutions can be paralleled up to megawatt scale for production of electricity. This in turn, works as a source of income generation for consumers. This solution is applicable for residential, offices, commercial and industrial spaces. Presently, government is also promoting on grid solution due to its effectiveness. In India when people talk about solar, they mostly mention about this generation.
However, this on grid solution works in sync with electricity fed into the system. It needs round the clock electricity and works only when electricity is available from the power distribution company. This does not support at the time of power failure. Therefore, needs the back up of a small generator. Moreover, the ‘Net Metering’ system is not always profitable for power distribution companies. It may lead to a situation where the user may sell solar power to grid without buying any power from grid but the entire system needs to be maintained by the power distribution company.
Considering the limitations of the third generation solution, a new ‘hybrid solution’, i.e – online solar system with storage facility has been introduced in the global market. This is the fourth generation solution. In this system the user can store the additional solar energy generated at his end for his own use. But the provision of selling extra energy to the grid is dwindling as it is not always profitable for power distribution companies. This solution is already facing such problems in Ukrainian and European countries.
Just like most of the leading power solution firms, Micromax energy offers solutions which fall under the first to fourth generations. Moreover, considering the typical power shortage and cost sensitive situations in the Indian market, we have introduced two new generations of solutions which are quite unique but cost effective.
We work on next generation technology on storage along with solar to provide a complete solar power house without any grid connectivity. This fifth generation or ‘Hybrid plus’ solution is an improvised version of the second generation off grid solar inverters. This grid independent competitive solar solution is ideal for the Indian conditions and saves cost as it uses solar power as the source of free power backup. This highly scalable solution is applicable for residential spaces, offices, commercial spaces, industrial usage etc. However, cost of this solution is also much lower than the previous two generations as there is no need for maintaining an online system.
We also think a step ahead to address energy and cost saving needs of entities which have no space for solar panel installation or no power failure condition. We have introduced the sixth generation solution or Smart Energy Storage and Saving System (ESSS) for such cases. This revolutionary solution works both with and without solar as it can store energy both from solar and grid.
In commercial spaces, power tariff is different in the different period of time. Smart ESSS stores power from grid during the hours of low tariff and utilise the same during the peak tariff hours. This in turn lowers the total power cost of the user. Secondly the fixed charge for the peak load is very high at any commercial space though the peak load is required only for a very short span of time. Therefore, it incurs an unnecessary cost on the user and also the power distribution company has to be prepared with that extra load which usually remains unutilised. Smart ESSS takes away worries of peak load demands as it is taken care by the internal storage. This, in turn, saves cost for both consumers and power distribution companies. This solution is ideal for offices, banks, commercial, industrial and residential applications.
With this vast portfolio of solutions, Micromax is far ahead of the other power solution firms present both in the Indian as well as Global market.
Along with the inverter, we are also working on the motor for agriculture purposes. My vision is to position ourselves as a complete solar solutions company. I am sure that we will be able to achieve it soon.
Q.How do you envision the growth of Micromax Energy?
Energy demand in India is increasing at a brisk pace, while the supply, though growing, is not able to keep up. Considering the ever increasing difference between the generation and consumption of energy, solar energy is going to play a major role in fulfilling the needs of the energy sector. Therefore, solar power, despite the initial challenges in the sector, offers huge opportunities. The Government has set a target of 100 Giga watts by 2022. At Micromax energy, our aim is that at least 10% of this installation should be done using our solar products or technology that we have developed or will be developing. If everything goes well, next year we wish to be among the Top 5 players in the solar industry.
We are also developing a design & support team to help the EPC or channel partner to generate higher energy outputs with the same cost, improved ruggedness & reliability. We are in process of finalizing the contract with various institutes & reputed designed houses for joint development of solar product with innovation & will apply patents also.
Customer invests in the solar power segment and expects to get maximum return on investment (ROI). Micromax energy will focus to provide, develop, design & give support to their customer to achieve maximum ROI.