Chandigarh-based company Hartek Solar Private Limited’s customised ‘plug-and-play’ residential rooftop solar kits are potential game-changers in the energy sector.
Installed in 500+ residences across Haryana, Punjab, Chandigarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh over the past two years, these customised rooftop solar kits have enabled consumers to generate their own sustainable, clean and affordable power and reduce their electricity bills to zero.
Besides minimal maintenance cost, customers can monitor the energy generated through these rooftop solar kits using remote sensing technology supported by an in-house app. The company claims to have connected more than 1,500 MW of solar projects to the grid and executed rooftop solar projects to the tune of 25 MW.
Incorporated in 2015 by entrepreneur Simarpreet Singh in Chandigarh, the company began its business operations in FY 2017-18. Hartek Solar Pvt Ltd is part of the larger power conglomerate Hartek Group and the brainchild of Simarpreet Singh. His father Hartek Singh is a first-generation entrepreneur who ventured into the power sector in 1991. For his work in solar energy, Simarpreet was included in the Forbes ’30 under 30′ Asia list last year.
Simarpreet’s decision to foray into the solar energy sector was inspired by former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s speech in 2011. At the time, he was on the cusp of completing his Bachelors of Technology in electrical engineering from a private college in Punjab.
“Dr Kalam said that every household must generate their own sustainable electricity and clean water. Every household, company and industry must arrive at a stage where they are generating their own electricity and not depending on some external corporation that controls the price we pay for it,” says Simarpreet, speaking to The Better India.
When he started Hartek Solar, he felt that every consumer should be free from the electricity grid, and generate their own electricity, without a large electricity generating and distributing corporation deciding their fate.
“We began approaching residential owners in Chandigarh first,” he recalls.
‘It’s not a product, but a concept’
After a brief period of trial and error, Hartek Solar arrived at a model for residential segment similar to the Swedish multinational company IKEA, which gives consumers the freedom to choose their own furniture. At the time, companies were installing standard rooftop solar energy installations generating the same amount of power – usually 10 kilowatts peak (kWp) – across different homes irrespective of their specific requirements, says Simarpreet.
“In our case, however, an engineer would come to your home and they would customize the rooftop solar power installation based on your needs. For example, if you have a budget of installing 2 or 3 kWp, we will design it accordingly. We wouldn’t push for installing a standard 10 kWp setup. It’s not merely a product, but a concept that solar energy installation should be customized based on consumer experience. Also, from a technical perspective, every rooftop is different. Their power requirements are different,” he argues.
Today, even commercial and industrial enterprises seek customised solar rooftop panels instead of allowing conventional solar power companies to dictate what they can push.
Components & Consumer Experience
A customized rooftop solar panel consists of the same components that a conventional solar energy installation possesses. It consists of solar panels, an inverter which converts your DC to AC power to operate your home appliances, wires, earthing cables and other basic components.
As a business, Hartek Solar is an aggregator and they don’t manufacture the equipment. Their core expertise lies in supply chain management, construction and engineering.
Where do they source their components from?
“Typically, you have solar panels manufactured in India and China. A majority of our equipment is sourced domestically, but some components come from Chinese companies since they can produce them at volume and with better technology. After the recent events at our borders, our company has sought to ensure that our purchasing happens in India. Even if we have to source components from China, we seek out an Indian distributor. Our long term focus is to make in and source it in India,” he explains.
How can customers get their rooftop solar kit installed at their homes?
“Within 24 to 48 hours of getting an inquiry either through social media or phone call, our site surveyor will visit your home and conduct a complete site survey. These site surveyors are engineers on Hartek’s payroll. Based on our extensive site survey, we design a rooftop solar power system customised to that site. This design is developed within 24 hours of the site survey. On the third day, our sales representative comes forward with a customised offer for your home. Once we get a confirmation from the consumer’s end and all necessary approvals, we go for installation, which takes somewhere between 10-20 days. Normally, companies take about a month or so,” informs Simranpreet.
This is specific to residential places. For commercial and industrial projects, this may take about a month or so. In terms of cost, for residential places, a 1 kWp system would cost somewhere around Rs 50-55,000 including taxes and other costs, he claims.
With a 5 kWp system, you’re tentatively looking at Rs 2.5 lakh including all charges and on top of which governments offer subsidies for residential owners installing solar panels. The subsidy amount varies from state to state, he claims.
For some of their consumers, electricity bills have started falling in the negative. Others have spoken of how their bills have fallen to zero within three months of installing the rooftop solar kit. “We have households which run entirely on solar. They’re generating their own electricity and it’s like installing a power plant in their own home,” he says.
Listen to Diljit Singh, a resident of Sector 34, Chandigarh, who explains how he no longer has to pay electricity bills: “Since I got Hartek Solar’s 5-kWp rooftop solar kit installed at my home, I have not paid a single paisa towards electricity bills. At this pace, all the money that I have invested in this solar plant will be recovered in three years flat. Moreover, these kits are hassle-free as they are easier to install, operate and maintain. Hartek Solar had installed this plant in a matter of a few hours, and that too without causing any damage to the roof.”
Another key feature of their rooftop solar kit is the remote sensing technology to monitor the generation and savings of solar energy. A data logger is embedded into every inverter and this is synced to either the consumer’s SIM card or WiFi connection. Once this arrangement is set up, all consumers have to do is install the Hartek Solar app on their phone and log in. With this app, they can check the amount of solar energy generated, saved and the maintenance required in real-time. This app is available on both Android and iOS.
“While I was on a visit to my daughter’s place in the US recently, I got regular alerts on my mobile phone on cleaning and maintenance as well as real-time data on energy generation and savings,” says Tejinder Singh Makker, a resident of Sector 38, Chandigarh.
Challenges & the road ahead
The likes of Hartek Solar are in competition with the local electricity discoms because once consumers go solar, their electricity bills will either vanish or reduce by about 80 per cent. Costs in the solar sector have reduced drastically in the past five years. Nearly 5 years ago, a 1 kWp installation would cost Rs 1 lakh, and that cost has fallen by more than half.
Although this has allowed solar power companies to cater to middle-class homes, the real potential for scaling up lies in India’s interior villages. Although State governments offer subsidies for residential owners installing solar panels, any genuine attempt at scaling up in rural India will require the intervention of banks that can facilitate structured finance schemes for consumers wanting to install solar power plants, as they do for cars and smartphones.
“Unlike car loans or EMI payments for expensive smartphones, there aren’t banks that can facilitate similar structured finance schemes for consumers wanting to go for solar power. Rural households can’t pay Rs 2.5 lakh in one go to install solar panels. Till the time cheap financing does not kick into this sector, we will not be able to penetrate the interiors of this country. I want to reach out to every farmer with our products and tell them that we can drastically reduce their electricity costs, but they should be able to afford it,” says Simarpreet.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)