India: Investment in Tank and Vacuum Tube Collector Production
The solar thermal industry in India is serving the strongly growing demand with additional manufacturing capacities of solar water heaters based on vacuum tube technology. This news piece presents two examples of solar manufacturers, V-Guard Industries and Inter Solar Systems, which have invested INR 180 million (EUR 2.1 million) and INR 100 million (EUR 1.2 million) in new factories, respectively. The trend towards vacuum tube technology has also been confirmed by the latest industry survey carried out by German agency solrico in September/October 2013. The seven solar water heater companies which manufacture collectors based on vacuum tubes and took part in the survey were able to increase their production by, on average, 58 % in 2012 compared to the previous year. The 14 flat plate manufacturers, on the other hand, reported stagnating production figures for 2012.
V-Guard Industries, India’s leading manufacturer of consumer electronics and one of the major solar water heater manufacturers in the country, has now opened its second manufacturing line for solar water heaters based on vacuum tubes near Coimbatore, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The plant, with a capacity of 90,000 solar water heater units annually, will be India’s largest integrated manufacturing plant for polymer and stainless steel tanks, the company claims. It has invested INR 180 million in the new buildings, which include a 37,500 ft² commercial warehouse. According to the latest solrico survey mentioned above, the company produced solar water heaters with a total vacuum tube collector area of 32,000 m² in 2012, 21 % more than in the previous year.
Rama Chandran, Director of Marketing and Strategy at V-Guard Industries, says: ”The polymer tanks will be built in-house. We have already tested these tanks and the results are satisfying. The tanks will greatly benefit areas with hard water. With this state-of-the art system, we aim for the pole position in polymer tank supply over the next two years.” The company has left the option of producing flat plate collectors on the table if there is demand for it in the future. But right now, the focus is on vacuum tubes only.
Inter Solar Systems has increased its manufacturing capacity of solar water heaters at a new manufacturing site in Mohali, in the northern state of Punjab, producing both vacuum and flat plate systems. “We acquired 5 acres of land and have invested INR 100 million to set up a manufacturing facility over an area of 30,000 ft²,” Managing Director Davinder Kaushal says. “During the first phase of our expansion plan, we will produce 64,000 tanks combined with vacuum tubes, with tank capacities ranging from 100 to 200 litres, and 20,000 flat plate collector tanks, with capacities ranging from 100 to 500 litres. Phase two will see us making collectors with full-plate absorbers instead of fins in another 2 years.” According to the solrico survey mentioned above, Inter Solar Systems started offering vacuum tube collectors back in 2010. Last year, the company sold solar water heaters with a vacuum tube collector area of 4,000 m² – triple the amount of the previous year. The reported produced area of flat plate collectors in 2012 was 28,000 m² (+27 % to the previous year).
The expansion plan will also cater to exports, but Kaushal did not provide any information about the targeted countries. In addition, Kaushal says that there are niche applications for which flat plate systems are better suited, which is why his company will never write off such systems prematurely.