Interview: Nimish Jain

CEO-India at Airtouch Solar

We are Planning to Export Our Robotic Cleaning Solutions from Noida Facility

August 18, 2022. By Manu Tayal

We are planning to utilize our Noida-based facility to manufacture and supply waterless robotic cleaning solutions to international markets as well. We have supplied and installed more than 1.3 GW of solar robots in India with a strong interest and an order pipeline of around 2 GW to be executed in the coming months. The Indian market is one of the strategic markets for us both from a manufacturing and sales perspective, disclosed Nimish Jain, CEO-India, Airtouch Solar, in an exclusive conversation with Manu Tayal, Associate Editor, Energetica India. Mr. Jain also discussed about his company’s various product offerings, expansion plans, key customers, challenges in the Indian market, etc. Here’re the edited excerpts:

Que: Kindly tell Energetica India readers in brief about Airtouch Solar and its presence across geographies.

Ans: Airtouch Solar is a leading waterless robotic cleaning solution company founded in 2017 by Mr. Yanir Allouche and is listed on Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Airtouch has state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in India and Israel with a production capacity that can be scalable up to 10 GW per year. Airtouch is continuously investing in R&D and product development to continue leading the market with futuristic robotic cleaning solutions. Our dry-cleaning robots are installed in Israel, India and the Middle East.

Que: Shed some light on Airtouch Solar’s India manufacturing facility, capacity, order pipeline etc.

Ans: Airtouch Solar’s manufacturing facility in Noida is one of the largest factories for solar robots in India. With an annual production capacity of more than 6 GW which can be further increased up to 10 GW, Airtouch is well placed to cater to the increasing need for robots for existing and upcoming solar projects in India. The plan is to utilize this factory to manufacture and supply robots to international markets as well. We have supplied and installed more than 1.3 GW of solar robots in India with a strong interest and an order pipeline of around 2 GW to be executed in the coming months. The Indian market is one of the strategic markets for us both from a manufacturing and sales perspective.

Que: What are Airtouch’s various robotic solution offerings for Indian customers?

Ans: Airtouch solar offer both Autonomous and Semi-Autonomous (portable) solution in the Indian market which helps IPPs and Project developers to increase their ROI. A hybrid cleaning solution with both portable and autonomous robots can reduce the Capex and Opex by up to 30% resulting in a payback period of 3-4 years.

Airtouch is also offering robotic cleaning solutions for various types of tracker systems in India either using advanced autonomous vehicles that cover a few rows with a single robot or using the smart bridging system by connecting a few tables that rotate along with the trackers.

Airtouch water-free robotic cleaning solutions stand out from other panel cleaning systems for a few reasons:

- Received best-in-class safety test results from PI Berlin for its microfiber-based cleaning technology with negligible impact on modules even after 25 years of cleaning.

- Patented wind blowing technology that enables more efficient cleaning.

- All our robotic cleaning solutions are designed to perform the cleaning either every day or every alternate day to maximize the energy output of the PV developer.

- We provide the photovoltaic (PV) developer with a long-term service agreement that includes operation and a full maintenance package of the robots.

Que: With the rising installation of solar energy projects in India, how much market share Airtouch is targeting for its robotic cleaning solutions in the near term?

Ans: We at Airtouch are looking to work closely with the IPPs to optimize cleaning costs by providing a long-term solution instead of just selling a robot. As our Hybrid solution optimizes Capex and Opex for the developers, they can save on the cleaning costs significantly in addition to the millions of liters of water which is a precious resource. We are looking to maintain our leadership position in the market with our excellent products and services and are confident of gaining significant market share.

Que: Can you name a few of your key customers in the Indian solar market?

Ans: Airtouch is proudly associated with most of the leading solar project developers in India and has supplied and installed robots with companies like Renew Power, Hero Future Energies, Juniper Green, Acme, Avaada, Tata Power etc.

Que: As many large solar projects have already been installed in dry and water-scarce areas in India, how does Airtouch address the issue of efficiency?

Ans: Airtouch robots are designed to work in harsher environments and clean solar panels without water. Airtouch has developed a smart and simple linear autonomous robot with patented technology that combines a wind blower and gentle microfibers that complete the cleaning. The robot is charged by a separate solar panel and connected to Airtouch cloud-based IoT System (AT IoT). The AT IoT system enables remote access, control, monitoring and management of every deployed robot in the field. The AT IoT is linked to a local meteorological station to include weather data in the ongoing monitoring and decision-making process. The robots are IP65 compliant and thus are suitable to work in harsh environments.

Que: In your view, what are the key challenges in the Indian solar sector?

Ans: Though there is a huge potential and growth in the Indian solar PV sector yet there are some challenges that may pull back the growth of the sector in the short to medium term. A few factors are:

- High solar PV module price as a result of high Polysilicon costs.
- Duties like BCD on solar cells and modules are resulting in cost increases.
- Increase in Balance of System cost by almost 20 – 30% resulting in project delays.
- Land availability near substations is sometimes an issue.
- Lack of allied industries like glass, EVA, Backsheet, etc for solar panel manufacturing.
- Less focus on Operations and Maintenance of existing plants.
- Delay in PPA signing and cancellation of some bids in the past.

Que: Do you have any investment or expansion plans in the next 2-3 years?

Ans: Airtouch is strongly committed to the Indian market and has already made a significant investment in setting up a manufacturing unit in Noida. With a local technical, sales, installation and service team, we are well set to provide excellent pre and post-sales services in India. Our current manufacturing capacity can produce up to 10 GW robots per year which are quite significant and as we are expanding to other markets like the Middle East, Americas and SE Asia, we may further expand the capacity in the years to come.

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