Making hay while the sun shines: Indian IT Company invests in solar

In 2013, the Tamil Nadu region of Southern India was in the grip of an acute power crisis. Bad news for IT company Infosys, which had to rely on diesel generators to power its two sites in Chennai. Diesel is three times more expensive than grid power and the sites consumed 7 million kWh from March to December 2013.

So it made sound economic sense for the company to install large solar photovoltaic (PV) systems at those sites. Infosys believe these systems will pay for themselves within six years, with a lifespan of up to 15 years.

The solar panels at Chennai are part of Infosys’s broader plans to move towards energy self-sufficiency. It wants to be carbon neutral by 2018 and to get all its electricity from renewable sources by the same year.

Infosys is already making great strides: in 2014, the company got 30% (75.6 million kWh) of its energy from renewable sources.

The solar opportunity

The business case for Infosys is clear: it can manage any risks linked with unreliable energy supplies and slash its energy bills by replacing diesel and electricity with renewable energy—especially while both diesel and electricity costs are rising. (Over the last five years, the price of diesel in India has gone up by 70% and electricity by 35%.)

Infosys sees real opportunities for the solar market in India. Solar energy is measured in terms of global horizontal irradiance (the total amount of shortwave radiation that hits a horizontal surface from above). India’s global horizontal irradiance is 1,600 - 2,200 kWh/m2—double that of Germany.

Infosys had mainly gotten its energy offsite from sources like wind and hydro. Infosys doesn’t have enough clear space for installing solar panels. The cost of solar panels has reduced considerably over the last few years; at the same time, the efficiencies have improved making them commercially viable. “We are exploring investment opportunities in different States and are evaluating local solar policies and open access options to achieve the green power target,” says Ramesh Gowda, regional manager, infrastructure, Infosys. “We may procure power or invest in green energy projects depending on the State policies.” [1]

It has already installed solar photovoltaics in many of their campuses, totaling 2.3 MW of output— enough to power almost 4,500 homes in India for a year. [2] Infosys plans to increase this to 50 MW over the next two years.

There’s huge potential for renewables in India but the market needs pioneers to get things moving and show businesses what’s possible. Infosys is primed for the challenge: as Ramdas Kamath, Infosys’ head of infrastructure and green initiatives, explains, “For us, it’s not just important for Infosys to be green; we want to lead the way in creating a sustainable environment for the development of the society as a whole. We are constantly pushing boundaries and trying innovative ideas to bring about a transformative change and create environment consciousness in India.”


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