Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), US government’s development finance institution which pools together private sector funds, is lending $150 million or around Rs 750 crore for a project to expand the use of solar energy to power telecommunication towers in India. Delhi-based Applied Solar Technologies is the project sponsor.
The proceeds of the funding will be used to supplement cellular towers’ diesel-powered generators with solar hybrid energy systems which use proprietary controllers to integrate and optimise usage through photovoltaic technology, electricity from the electric grid, a battery bank charged by solar panels and existing generators.
This investment is aimed at reducing CO2 emissions and creating jobs in both the USA and India, the organisation has said. OPIC mobilises private capital in order to help US businesses gain foothold in emerging markets, thus catalysing revenues, jobs and growth opportunities at home and abroad. It provided investors with financing, guarantees, political risk insurance and support for private equity investment funds.
The US sponsors of the current project are Vinod Agarwal, venture capital firm Bessemer Venture Partners and Capricorn Investment Group, a California-based company that invests in companies manufacturing environment-friendly products.
“This project brings OPIC’s financing for renewable energy in India to more than $400 million, approved in the past year,” said OPIC president and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield.
In April 2010, Applied Solar Technologies received $21 million or around Rs 105 crore investment from International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private investment arm of the World Bank.
Solar energy is fast becoming a ‘sunrise’ sector in India. It has started attracting interest from financial investors, as well as cross-border partnerships.
In June this year, IFC invested $4 million in Sapphire Industrial Infrastructures Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of Moser Baer Clean Energy Ltd. Sapphire Industrial is constructing a 5 MW solar plant at Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu.
Last year, Gurgaon-based SunBorne Energy, a specialist in utility-scale solar solutions, entered into an agreement with Chinese solar panel maker Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd where Suntech will supply SunBorne Energy with 100 MW of solar modules over the next two years. The agreement includes an initial order for 10 MW of solar panels for a project in Gujarat.
Backed by General Catalyst Partners and Khosla Ventures, SunBorne Energy Holdings LLC was set up in 2008 by a team of professionals to develop and operate solar power projects in India, mainly using solar thermal or CSP technology. Incidentally, IFC invested around $10 million in the solar power producer through a mix of debt and equity.
IFC has also put money in three other solar power-related firms in India in the past two years, such as NDPL Solar and Azure Power.
Among other initiatives, the diversified Yash Birla Group is likely to sign a joint venture agreement with a US-based company to set up and maintain solar power plants in India.