Interview: Indrajeet Dudile, Co – founder Director, PVFix

Indrajeet Dudile, Co - founder Director,PVFix

Thank you Indrajeet for your time, please introduce PVFix to our readers and kind of products it offers to the solar market in the country?

The PVFix is a brand of solar mounting structures developed by Sunshot Technologies. After working for 5 years executing over 150 projects, the one thing we noticed was the lack in the availability of quality solar mounting structures, we being a young company decided to take the initiative of designing developing cutting-edge modern mounting structures. Though solar mounting structures come right after the modules and inverters, we feel that the structure’s design engineering is not given needed attention as solar modules and inverters. The module mounting structure is an equally essential part because that holds the costliest investment in the projects i.e the solar modules. In a market driven by innovation  cutting edge technologies; Sunshot Technologies is proud to present, PVFix an all new range of solar mounting structures. Most of the solar mounting structure players have limited exposure to practical requirements of the EPC from installation, layout design, longevity of the plant generation perspective. Taking this into consideration, Sunshot started developing its own PV module mounting structures from scratch with help of in house experienced engineering and design team. We have been using them for our own projects for more than 1.5 years. The structure designs are refined over the period after extensive trials. As a result, now, we have an excellent product line that could solve common challenges faced by small as well as a large solar EPC player. Naturally, we decided to offer these products in the market of rooftop solar power EPC companies.

Products: PVfix now has an entire portfolio of the solar module mounting structures available for the variety of roof types that we see in India; be it a metal roof or RCC roof. Generally, roof is not maintained as good as other building areas. Therefore, roof conditions need to be taken into considerations while designing and engineering solar module mounting structures. Also, other factors such as installation time, ease of installation, fixing method with base of roof, leakage protection are equally important.  PVFix is designed engineered keeping in mind these parameters learnings distilled from 5 years of experience across 150 installations more than 1000 sites.  We have a portfolio of more than 8 variety of the structure designs catering to different requirements in the rooftop market.

How EPC players select solar mounting structures? What are the factors that are considered before buying?

An EPC player needs a solar module mounting structure “solution” which provides flexibility in layout design, easy installation, low maintenance, simplicity in shifting & storage. Additionally, structure design also needs to meet the criteria of the PV module manufacturer, finally, the cost lead time to supply are important factors in selection of an appropriate structure.  PVFix maintains a stock of our some of fast moving products so that we serve our clients within a week along with the engineering design validation.  At PVFix all our structures are validated by third party agencies some of our designs have pending for patents. We also offer installation support, layout design support on-site pull out tests. To identify the requirements, we engage with the client in a methodological manner where our engineer visit the site assist in layout designing identification of local roof parameters. This process helps us to offer the right solution to our clients. We are launching our new web-based platform which will help clients to work out the modeling of the layout. The AI enabled tool will guide them in selecting the right type of module mounting structure. This will help in efficient faster decision making for our clients.

Please tell our readers about the problems that are associated with poor quality solar mounting structures and how PVFix avoid such issues?

The costliest material in a solar power plant is the solar module (approximately 55% of total project cost) these modules are held by a mounting structure. We have seen poorly designed structures leading to financial losses because of climate conditions. For example, Chennai has been facing cyclones more frequently over the last few years with erratic wind speeds, whereas dust storms are now occurring more often in northern parts of India. In such conditions, the solar plants would be experiencing difficult weather conditions. Poorly designed and engineered structures shall lead to module damage, thus financial losses. In extremely windy conditions, one could also see the modules getting dismantled fly in the vicinity which can potentially injure the people damage properties.  Companies usually go for structures based on theoretical design but we at PVFix always emphasize on on-site testing of the products. Our team offers on-site pull out testing to validate the design. Out of 150 installations that PVFix has done so far, some are in the coastal areas we are proud to say that our designs have sustained the high wind speeds from cyclone Vardah which hit Chennai 1.5 years back.

Is the presence of international players affecting the Indian solar structure market too?

There are few European companies making inroads in the Indian solar market. We believe that foreign competition will have little impact on Indian companies due to two reasons. One being the fact that the roof top designs in India are way different than what you see in Europe. European companies will need to customize their products to make them compatible with the Indian roofs. The second challenge is the cost. Unless you have a manufacturing base in India, the total product cost will be on the higher side. There is higher import duty on metal structure not on the raw material, so the net price for imported products would be 2x to 3x costlier. This will make imports unviable for the Indian market.

Please tell our readers, what percentage of total solar project cost does a solar structure comprises of and how this cost can be abridged without compromising on the quality? 

PVFix team has gone through the design, engineering material optimization process for its solar module mounting structures. The process is carried out by using different alloys and designs without compromising on the quality or the engineering requirements yet making it viable for our clients.  Module mounting structures are absolutely optimized with respect to the costs we do not see any further possibility of price reduction. Given the type of roof, cost can vary from a 2% to 8% of the project cost depending on various factors. PVFix does not believe in reducing the cost by sacrificing the quality. Structure is the most important part which holds the module. So, our priority is to offer correctly designed engineered product solutions for the client at the best possible price.

Share your views on the adoption of pre-assembled mounting structure, particularly in the Indian market?

I personally believe that the pre-assembled solar mounting structures will have a very limited acceptance in India. The pre-assembled structures are more feasible where   roof configuration is uniform in terms of construction material design. You do not find such similarities across roofs in industrial areas or commercial buildings in India. However, you will find pre-assembled structures in European market as most of the roof designs are similar.

Share in detail about the innovation and R&D the company is currently working on, and the tie-ups.

We have in-house R&D team that focuses on developing new products. We aim to serve the market by offering sound engineered products at lower costs. The Indian solar market is highly competitive cost will be an important factor. We have tied up with government research institutes in India for Research Development. We are also working with Laboratories in Pune to test validate the structure prototypes. Simultaneously, research is in progress to identify develop alternative materials that’ll reduce cost of mounting structures without compromising on the quality. Presently we are testing specially developed polymers to for further development of certain structure parts.

Finally, do you see any impact of GST in the mounting structure industry in India?

No, I don’t see an impact of GST on solar mounting structures because the input – output GST rates are the same. If we are procuring the material required for structures we have an 18% GST rate and the same gets applied when we sell the structures, hence there is absolutely no impact.

(This interview was published in September issue of Climate Samurai)