Gujarat-based AHCP Group of Companies is completing a 70MW solar energy project in Kutch. When fully operational in 2019, AHCP will pump more than 230 million units of electricity into the state grid.Rishabh Mansur
In the years to come, solar power has the potential to become the primary source of energy globally. India is on the road to becoming one of the largest solar hubs in the world, and is targeting 100 GW solar power capacity by 2022. Government bodies and trade associations are doing their bit to promote renewable energy.
However, private players hold a lot of the power. They have the capacity to develop and implement low cost, cutting-edge tech that would boost solar use. One of these players is Gujarat-based AHCP Group of Companies. It was formed in 2010 by a group of NRIs who left the US and returned to India to develop the solar energy ecosystem.
“AHCP was created as result of the ambitions and endeavours of several individuals in the Indian solar energy environment,” says Alkesh Desai, Co-Founder, Director and CEO, AHCP. “AHCP collectively has more than 200 years of international experience in the realms of finance, law, regulatory affairs, real estate, politics, energy, manufacturing, engineering, design and construction,” he says.
“Thanks to our decades of multidisciplinary and international experience and the wisdom gained, we can identify and hedge the risks and opportunities in geopolitics, currency market, procurement, technology selection, regulatory changes and operations,” he adds.
Other core members of AHCP are Ashok Desai, Mayur Raol, Amit Shah, Hemal Doshi, Jaydeep Desai, and Amithava Menon. “We're US citizens with Overseas Citizenship of India. We immigrated back to India between 2001-04, after more than 15 years in the US,” Alkesh says “We wanted to contribute to nation building, among other goals like returning to our roots.”
Desai wanted to leverage his 27 years of experience in regulatory affairs, project administration; compliance with specifications, integrating business and engineering with automation and technology, tech management, systems analysis, and more. But when the group started, they were primarily into real estate. After a few years in the real estate industry, the group felt it wasn’t working out.
“The returns we were getting in real estate were intensely disproportionate to our input and efforts. Thus, we consciously and painfully avoided real estate since 2008. We decided to get into the solar industry. We began our solar journey in 2010 with development of a 2MW project in the Charanka Solar Park, Gujarat,” Alkesh says.
AHCP then embarked on developing a 10MW project in the desert of Kutch. It is now expanding this project to 70MW. “From the start, we had settled on this model: we'd inject our production into the state grid, and our customers would be the two state discoms. We have three new projects coming up, adding up to 132MW,” he says.
When fully operational later in 2019, AHCP will be pumping more than 230 million units of electricity into the grid. “We'd be offsetting over 163,000 tons of CO2 annually,” Alkesh says proudly.
The AHCP plant was visited by Peter Hass, US Consul General to India, and by several other solar industry leaders. “This plant was also dedicated to the nation by the Chief Minister of Gujarat,’ he says.
The business also works in US markets. Eximius Resources and A-Plus Solar Power, the US arms of AHCP, have experience in designing, executing and operating over 100 MW Solar PV Plants in the states of New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Texas. They work for government agencies and corporate entities.
“Our history of relations with various manufacturers and institutional financiers enables us access to finance, technology, quality, and terms of procurement that are not readily available to our competitors,” Alkesh says.
AHCP’s Indian consultants and liaison agents for federal and state utilities and regulatory agencies ensure that the business is in tune with the regulatory beat of the market. AHCP also participates in charity events, expending at least 20 percent of its net income to charitable causes.
The group is working towards water conservation and grid management as well. It has a unique goal of harvesting millions of gallons of rainwater in the desert of Kutch, which receives an average annual precipitation of only three to four inches.
“We are also seeking to do organic farming in our 225-acre solar PV project site. We have also influenced our national grid management policy to include wind and solar energy integration,” Alkesh reveals. “We have also done our part in influencing the government's recent mandate to raise the height of solar PV projects, so that the underlying land can be used for farming.”
Integrating other systems and technology with solar is the way forward. It can make solar sustainable and cost effective in the long run. ACHP is integrating other seemingly conflicting technologies into solar installations. These include tech for wind energy, battery storage, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, dairy, animal husbandry, etc.
India will take a long time to become a completely solar-reliant nation. Traditional, non-renewable sources of energy have to be phased out gradually. Integrating a host of technologies and practices with solar can make it the more attractive renewable energy. AHCP is leading the way and, if more companies follow, solar energy can become India’s primary source of energy.