Aussie firm lights up Hambantota with $ 190 m solar power project

Monday, 24 February 2014 00:03 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Solar panel and cells manufacturing plant in Mirijjawela to be ready by next year
  • Phase 1 to generate 150 MW per annum for energy export
  • Sri Lanka to be company’s hub for Asia and the Gulf
By Cheranka Mendis Australia-based Energy Puzzle Group on Friday committed an investment of US$ 190 million to put up a solar panel and solar cells plant in the Mirijjawela Export Processing Zone in Hambantota. Spanning across eight-and-a-half acres, the plant is expected to be fully operational by Q1 2015, generating 150 mega watts of power per annum. The majority of the energy produced will initially be for export. The main three export markets the company is targeting are India, Japan and the Gulf states. Speaking to the Daily FT, Energy Puzzle Chairman Patrick Featherson yesterday noted that the initial production of 150 mega watts was likely to increase dramatically within the first few years. “We are looking at an ROI and profitability by the third year,” Featherson said. Once Phase One is up and operational, based on demand they would look at expanding not only in solar panels, but will also move into energy storage and other renewables as well, R&D and software development, he expressed. “This is why we secured enough land to expand. We hope the second phase will begin around mid 2016.” The plant will originally employ 150 staff, of which there would be a balanced mix of Sri Lankan and Australian managers and workers. The company does not have other plants in close geographical proximity for manufacture. “This is our manufacturing hub for South Asia/South East Asia and the Asian region, extending towards the Gulf States.” Energy Puzzle engages in consultancy services to governments on energy policies as well as deployment and use of renewable energies and education. “We also do development, large-scale solar and wind energy parks, and provide financial advice to renewable energy projects and companies.” This is their first investment in Sri Lanka. “The BOI has created a conducive investment environment in Sri Lanka. There is also a very high level of education and engineering expertise within the country, which is highly underutilised. We feel migrating into high technology, particularly in renewable energy technology, provides a good base for Sri Lanka for manufacturing, education and employment.” Featherson commenting on choosing Mirijjawela said: “Sri Lanka, given the new port and the new development area in Hambantota, provides an excellent opportunity for us. It is a deep water port and there are no deep water ports in the southern part of India. We feel that both bringing materials into Sri Lanka and within the new free port area, we will be able to manufacture and export quite quickly at quite a low expense. The whole process of logistics has made it quite conducive.” The Daily FT learns that the company could be listed in the Colombo Stock Exchange under a new scheme which is being set up by the BOI and Stock Exchange. In a statement made to the media, BOI Chairman Dr. Lakshman Jayaweera said: “This investment in the manufacture of solar panels is further proof that the BOI’s policy of targeting specific Australian companies is bearing fruit.” It is noted that in recent months, Sri Lanka was able to capture the attention of Australia’s elite by holding targeted promotional drives in major cities in Australia through the Commonwealth Business Forum. “Sri Lanka is now very much on Australia’s radar screen.” Dr. Jayaweera added: “Sri Lanka will become the next Silicon Valley for the manufacture of renewable energy components.”