TOKYO -- Mitsui & Co. looks to build small-scale solar farms in regions of India that lack access to electricity or have an unreliable supply.
The Japanese trading house will invest nearly 1 billion yen ($9.11 million) in OMC Power, an electricity company based southwest of New Delhi in Gurugram.
OMC has built 75 solar farms, which provide electricity to telecom base stations formerly powered by diesel. Cellphone use has spread in much of India, even in communities that lack access to the grid. The company distributes excess electricity to nearby homes, schools and shops.
Three hundred million Indians live in areas without access to electricity. If including those with an unstable supply, that number jumps to 400 million. Meanwhile, 1 billion people, or nearly 80% of the population, now use cellphones, and the country has 450,000 base stations.
Mitsui and OMC will establish a joint venture, which also may set up solar farms and storage batteries for factories and warehouses.
OMC independently will raise the number of solar farms to 250 by the end of fiscal 2018. Mitsui hopes that its total figure, including those by the joint venture, will reach 2,000 in 2020.
Mitsui plans to expand the business to Africa as well.