Azure Power, India’s first private grid connected solar power plant developer, has signed an MoU with NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam Ltd (NVVN) to become the first operating private project under Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (NSM). The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a World Bank arm, had invested $10 million in Azure Power India in March 2010. Azure Power had partnered with SunEdison, North America’s largest solar energy services provider, for developing a 15 megawatt (MW) photovoltaic solar power plant in Gujarat in May 2010.

The government has recently announced its solar energy mission to produce 20,000 MW of power by 2022 under Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission. In the first phase, 1,100 MW of grid solar power and 200 MW capacity of off-grid solar applications will be set up utilising both solar thermal and photovoltaic technologies. The government will designate NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam (NVVN), the power trading arm of NTPC, for the purchase of solar power generated by independent solar power producers, at rates fixed by the Central Regulatory Electricity Commission.

Azure intends to be the first company to sign PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) and collect tariff under the new policy. Azure Power’s 2MW solar power plant at Awan, Punjab has been awarded migration to the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission’s grid connected project scheme, said a company release. The NSM had received applications from more than 60 companies out of which 16 were selected for signing the MoUs. Out of the 16, Azure is the only private company that has achieved financial closure and has partly commissioned the solar PV plant, added the release.

Inderpreet Wadhwa, CEO, Azure Power said, “Being the first private company to produce a grid connected solar power plant in the country, it is only natural that Azure Power be the first company to provide solar power to NTPC. It is a reflection of our leadership in solar power generation and our ambition to be a major player in solar power sector in the country.”

Azure Power operationalised India’s first private MW scale solar power plant in Punjab, in December 2009. It has signed MoU’s with the governments of Gujarat, Punjab, Karnataka and Haryana for the development of grid connected solar power plants and are in talks with the governments of Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and West Bengal for agreements regarding solar power plants in these states.

Recently, the Yash Birla group announced plans of Birla Power Solutions Ltd., (BPSL) to invest Rs 2,000 crore to set up 125MW of solar photo-voltaic power plants over the next three years.  In the first phase, the allocation will be divided as: Haryana (10 MW), Uttarakhand (5 MW), Rajasthan (5 MW) and Andhra Pradesh (50 MW). In January 2010, Moser Baer PV, a subsidiary of Moser Baer India, announced plans to invest a maximum of $125 million for manufacturing solar photovoltaic cells in 2010-2011. According to reports, the US-based American Capital Energy and MSM Energy will soon announce a solar energy joint-venture for engineering, procurement and construction of projects in India.

The high significance of the renewable energy has triggered a spate of private equity investments. Apart from the PE investment in Azure Power, IFC had invested in Bhilwara Energy and Auro Mira Energy also. According to VCCEdge data, since 2004, 17 deals worth $180 million took place in renewable energy sector in India. This year, Hyderabad-based Greenko Group received $34 million investment from TPG Capital Inc. BTS Investment Advisors, the Mumbai-based private equity firm focused on small and medium enterprises (SME), also plans to raise a clean energy fund which has a target of $120 million.

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