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Thermax sees openings in renewable energy

Pune-based energy and environment solutions’ provider Thermax is gearing up to tap incentives offered in the Union Budget for renewable energy, water and wastewater treatment.

The company is planning a strong foray into solar, biomass and geothermal sources of energy, said M S Unnikrishnan, managing director and chief executive.

He said the company had initiated a solar project at a village in Chakan near Pune, in association with the Department of Science and Technology. The Rs 13-crore investment is to electrify the village using an indigenously developed solar-cum-biomass fuelled technology, through which the village will get electricity round the clock, even during the rainy season when sunlight is scarce.

“This has huge commercial opportunity and there are many villages in India where electricity transmission lines have not reached. Incentives offered by the government can act as a booster to implement the project on a large scale,” he said.

The Union finance minister, in his Budget speech on Friday, had announced an increase in the plan outlay for the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy by 61 per cent, from Rs 620 crore in 2009-10 to Rs 1,000 crore in 2010-11. He also provided a concessional Customs duty of 5 per cent to machinery, instruments, equipment and appliances required for the initial setting up of photo-voltaic and solar thermal power generating units, and exempted all those items from central excise duty.

At the moment, setting up a unit to generate one megawatt (Mw) of solar energy costs more than double that for each Mw of a coal-based thermal power unit.

Unnikrishnan said the Rs 3,500-crore company was also exploring a foray into geothermal energy. The Budget had exempted ground-source heat pumps used to tap geo-thermal energy from basic Customs duty and special additional duty. The incentives will reduce the cost for initiating a project, as geothermal energy is relatively new to India, he said.

Unnikrishnan said Thermax was also looking forward to big business from water, wastewater and sewage treatment, as the government had earmarked higher allocation for infrastructure projects and for the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.