Zinc attempts to find new usages in solar and fertilizer industries

Amid the economic slowdown, where construction as well as auto sales have taken a hit, zinc metal, which finds strong application in both these sectors is looking at newer domestic consumption segments to grow.

“Solar panels, power storage batteries and fertilizers are the three new areas where zinc market has ample scope to grow in India. There is more than 100 per cent growth scope in fertilizers,” Andrew Green, executive director of International Zinc Association told Business Standard.

Zinc coated (galvanized) steel is the most effective and inexpensive way to protect steel from the corrosive effects of weather, temperature, and oxygen. Due to this, the base metal finds wide application in both in auto as well as construction segments in India.

“Solar is the fastest growing power production segment in the world including India and hence the solar panel requirement is also strong,” explained Green. “Another area is zinc batteries which help in storage of power. The storage market for electricity is expected to grow at 100 per cent in the next 8-10 years so when these two areas of power segments are combined, there is major growth area,” he added.

India’s solar installed capacity reached 30.709 GW as of August 31, 2019. The cost of construction of solar power plant is the lowest capital per MW. India connected 6.5 GW of new solar power capacity to the grid in 2018-19.

In the fertiliser segment, zinc utilisation can grow 200 per cent in India. “Zinc deficiency is a global issue. It improves food and nutrition quality,” said Green. About 4,500 children under the age of five die every year due to zinc deficiency. Use of micro nutrients like zinc can raise agri production resulting into higher realisations for farmers.

Zinc utilisation is the automobile sector, too, has potential. Of the total cars manufactured in the country, galvanized zinc is used only in about 15-17 per cent of the production. “Carmakers in India currently use galvanized zinc only for vehicles that are exported which forms 15-17 per cent of the total production. Domestically sold vehicles do not have galvanized car bodies. Due to this, there is big consumption growth potential for zinc in domestic car segment alone,” said Green. However, the domestic car consumer prefers non galvanized vehicle for cost benefit purpose and instead is given an option of making this addition after the car is finished.

Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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