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Engineering major Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) is betting big on solar energy and, in partnership with defence electronic company Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), is planning to set up an integrated photovoltaic facility entailing an investment of around Rs 6,000 crore. The State-owned firms are likely to rope in a private sector partner for the venture, for which the process has been initiated.

The integrated facility would include polycrystalline silicon (polysilicon) ingots, conversion into wafer, solar cells and then modules and solar panel systems. A capacity of 200 to 250 MW is being envisaged to achieve economies of scale while the location of the proposed facility is still to be decided.

The project would be keen to tap incentives on offer, including the Centre’s solar incentive package scheme, as capital costs are high and technology cycles extremely short. An annual production of around 2,500 tonnes of polysilicon, the key raw material used to manufacture solar panels, is being envisaged. Over the past year there had been a huge increase in the prices of polysilicon in the global market. The prices have gone up from $25 a kg in 2000 to $515 a kg in August 2008.

Major global polysilicon manufacturers include Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation, Wacker Chemie, REC, Tokuyama, MEMC, Mitsubishi (Japan and America) and Sumitomo Corporation. These top seven companies account for over 75 per cent of the global production of polysilicon. It is expected that by 2015, as many as 175 new manufacturers could get into this sector, including a host of private sector Indian players that are entering the fray in response to the Government’s semi-conductor policy outlined in March 2007.crackcrack
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