A 5 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) project owned by Astonfield Renewables has become the first solar power project in India to receive an A class credit rating. The project has been given A- credit rating by Credit Rating Information Services of India Limited (CRISIL), a division of the McGraw Hill Corporation and whose majority stakeholder is Standard & Poor’s.
The project is one of the first large-scale solar power projects to be operational in India. The project was initiated even before the massive Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission was implemented. Once the solar mission was implemented, the project was absorbed and was clubbed with other projects which were awarded to interested developers.
While not confirmed, since the project was initiated before the competitive bidding under the National Solar Mission was introduced, it is likely that the project signed a power purchase agreement at Rs 18 ($0.36) per kWh which is easily among the highest tariffs ever offered in India. In comparison, some of the most recent tariffs awarded to developers through competitive bidding were around Rs 5-6 per ($0.8-0.1) per kWh.
A number of other important conditions also worked in the favour of this project. The project is located in Rajasthan, the north-western state in India which is blessed with significantly high solar energy resources. The state also has vast areas of barren land which is available for significantly cheaper rates compared to land in other states. The land is available at cheap rates for long-term lease, as a result the company procured 185 acres of land, enough to set up a solar power project with 20 MW capacity. The 5 MW project currently covers only 40 acres of the total land area.
The company is also believed to have access to cheap debt financing as one of the funding agencies was the US Export-Import Bank which is known to provide loans at interest rates about one-third of the rates offered by Indian banks.
The project was implemented by renowned technology and service providers: The project is comprised of thin-film solar PV modules manufactured by T-Solar while the Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) services were provided by Schneider Electric.
These major factors led to CRISIL awarding the project an A class credit rating. “CRISIL A-/Stable” rating was given on long-term loan facilities,” as a result the project has “a comfortable financial risk profile, marked by healthy debt protection metrics.”
The company has a total of four solar PV projects in the country with a combined generation capacity of 20.5 MW.
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