CEL spearheading solar projects in India

The Central Electronics Limited (CEL) focusses on niche products. The company has been a pioneer in Solar Photovoltaics with focus in Rural Electrification, Water Pumping Systems and Roof Top Power Plants as well as development of innovative applications. says Dr Nalin Shinghal, Chairman and Managing Director, Central Electronics Limited, in conversation with Divakar Mukherjee of Elets News Network (ENN).

How has CEL embarked on a journey from a loss making Public Sector Undertaking to a profitable one?

The journey to this success has been very tough as the company was incurring losses for the past many years. CEL is working in sectors like defence electronics, solar energy, railway signaling, security and surveillance, which are high growth, government oriented sectors with good scope for PSUs. In the past few years, we have, on the one hand, revamped the infrastructure, processes and organisational structure of the company.

On the other, we have reviewed and revised our marketing as well as R&D strategy to focus on development of innovative applications. In the area of solar energy, we have focused on our traditional strengths in rural/remote area electrification as well as on development of new applications such as Architectural Use of Solar (Building Integrated Power Plants) as well as a range of smart city applications including Solar Trees, Solar Shelters, Solar Rickshaws etc. We have achieved major growth in other business areas including Railway Signaling, security & surveillance systems as well as Strategic Electronics.

The company has been developing major components for defence applications and now also taking new projects under ‘Make in India’ with the focus on meeting the needs of the Indian Armed Forces. There is an extensive focus on solar energy.

How CEL is taking India ahead in renewable energy sector?

CEL is a pioneer in the area of the Solar Photovoltaics in the country. Central Electronics Limited has distinction of developing India’s first solar cell in 1977, India’s First solar module in 1978 and India’s First solar plant in 1992. We got into solar way before anyone thought about it. We started the journey in the area of Solar Photovoltaics in 1970s. Since then we have been executing various projects in the area of rural electrification, Solar Power Plants, Water Pumping Systems, Solar Mini Grid, Solar Power Packs, solar Tree, Centralised Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) etc.

In earlier years, the company had focused on technology development. However with the maturing of technologies and market the focus of the company has shifted to development of applications to meet specific needs of our country and our markets. We have also executed Rural Electrification projects, under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities of various PSUs in far-flung areas of the country like Leh-Ladakh and North Eastern States. The company has executed various solar electrification projects at international borders for our Forces. The company is taking the lead in the niche areas where many players are not available.

Recently we have designed and developed India’s first flexible crystalline solar panels especially for use on railway coach roofs. Architectural Solutions with Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) is another niche area where CEL has its footprints. Central Electronics Limited has distinction of developing India’s first BIPV Power Plant way back in 2004. We have recently developed BIPV Car Parking, BIPV Railway Platform, BIPV Warehouse, Bus Q Shelter, etc, which are marvellous architectural interventions and can be ideal for Smart Cities. other business areas including Railway Signaling, security & surveillance systems as well as Strategic Electronics. The company has been developing major components for defence applications and now also taking new projects under ‘Make in India’ with the focus on meeting the needs of the Indian Armed Forces.

There is an extensive focus on solar energy. How CEL is taking India ahead in renewable energy sector?

CEL is a pioneer in the area of the Solar Photovoltaics in the country. CEL has distinction of developing India’s first solar cell in 1977, India’s First solar module in 1978 and India’s First solar plant in 1992. We got into solar way before anyone thought about it. We started the journey in the area of Solar Photovoltaics in 1970s. Since then we have been executing various projects in the area of rural electrification, Solar Power Plants, Water Pumping Systems, Solar Mini Grid, Solar Power Packs, solar Tree, Centralised Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) etc.

In earlier years, the company had focused on technology development. However with the maturing of technologies and market the focus of the company has shifted to development of applications to meet specific needs of our country and our markets. We have also executed Rural Electrification projects, under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities of various PSUs in far-flung areas of the country like Leh-Ladakh and North Eastern States. The company has executed various solar electrification projects at international borders for our Forces. The company is taking the lead in the niche areas where many players are not available. Recently we have designed and developed India’s first flexible

What future do you forsee for Leh-Ladakh in solar projects?

Leh gets more than 320 clear sunny days in a year and has the highest insolation, which means the intensity of the solar radiation is highest. Also, the outside temperature in Ladakh is low which enables the solar panels to work better. Central Electronics Limited is working in Leh Ladakh for almost two decades now. We have undertaken various projects in the area Rural Electrification in Ladakh. CEL has also installed Solar Power Plant at Indian Astronomical Observatory, Hanle which had the distinction of being the highest altitude solar power plant in the world. Solar can very well fulfil the energy needs of Ladakh but could also potentially provide solar energy to other parts of the country too, given the favourable climatic conditions in Ladakh.

How do you perceive the demand of Solar in North East?

Since the last a decade we have completed a lot of work in North East. There is a lot of demand for solar energy in the North East. As the population in North East is distributed, smaller size solar power plants are more viable in North East. The distributed Solar Network will help in reducing the cost of transmission also.

What is the scope of renewable energy in a fast developing nation like India and what do you have for near future?

India has an ambitious target of India 100 GW of solar power by 2022. India is right on its path and we believe that the country will able to exceed the target. We are amongst the top countries as far as solar installation is concerned and soon we will be in first or second spot. At CEL, we are working in multiple areas and have taken up MW size plants on RESCO as well as CAPEX models. We are presently executing a 120 MWp order for about 150 power plants in various locations in Maharashtra and are quite bullish about future growth in this area. We are also focusing on development of a range of innovative applications including Architectural use of solar PV (Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV)), smart city applications etc.

Do you have a specific plan for Ghaziabad?

Central Electronics Limited has more than 1.2 MWp of Solar Power Plants on its campus in Ghaziabad and our major portion of energy needs are met through solar. There are many industries in Ghaziabad which can follow a similar path. We have set up demo plants for a range of applications on our campus and have a dedicated team looking towards propagating solar in the Industries, Institutional and Residential area in and around Ghaziabad.

What projects have you undertaken in the Railways?

CEL has been working with IR for many decades to supply various signaling equipment as well as solar power plants. In recent years, we have executed a range of projects for the Indian Railways. Guwahati Railway station has a become North-East’s First 100% Solar Railway Station, the solar power plant at Guwahati Railway station was installed by Central Electronics Limited with the financial support from CONCOR. We have also executed a project for Indian Railways in which solar power plants was installed at the roof top of various railway divisional headquarters.

Recently, we have developed and manufactured flexible crystalline solar modules for the first time in the country. With this, we were able to reduce the weight and size of the power plant on train roof resulting in huge reduction in drag caused. We have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Railways for development of systems for meeting specific requirements of IR.

Under this process, we are converting one train into solar train, the project is funded by IRFC. In this project we will be installing different types/technologies of flexible solar panels on the train coach roof with extensive instrumentation to evaluate and design an optimised solution for IR’s requirements. Railway has a very ambitious solar plan and we are working hard to support the same.

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