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Renew | February 2017

Technology and innovation will continue to be the catalyst

Tulsi Tanti, Chairman & Managing Director, Suzlon Group

What are your plans in India?
Aligned with the´Make in India´ initiative and the government´s green commitments, we aim to install 20 GW in the next six years. This is more than our installations till date but, is well within reach. We have established a multi-prolonged strategy that covers R&D, manufacturing and design as we endeavour to meet our goals. Our focus areas include R&D to harness technology and reduce Cost of Energy (CoE), increase PLF and make low wind sites viable, ramp up volumes, expand our presence in focused markets, and realise business efficiencies. We are also working on setting up utility scale, GW size renewable projects. With our foray into solar energy, we have already expanded our portfolio and presence. We are confident that, with our plans and strategies, we are well on the way to achieving our vision of becoming one of the best renewable energy companies of the world.

How will the segment pan out in 2-5 years?
Renewable energy has become pivotal to the movement against the risks of climate change. India´s commitment at COP21 to increase renewables to 40 per cent of the energy mix by 2030, will expand the country´s renewable energy portfolio. The government target of 60 GW wind energy by 2022, is closer to becoming a reality propelled by technology and conducive policy environment. As a result, we witnessed annual installations of 3,415 MW in FY15-16, higher than ever before and 48 per cent higher than the previous year. The industry is expected to grow at a rate of 30 per cent annually, and may even surpass this on the back of the positive policies.

What are the challenges you face in the segment?
With ~28.5 GW, India attained fourth position in global wind power installed capacity. We now have ~31.5 GW to achieve by 2022.

That is ~5,000 MW annually and I am confident the wind sector can deliver the 60 GW target.
The government´s thrust on renewables was supported by policy actions in 2016 such as; approval on the re-powering policy, the draft wind-solar hybrid and revised RPO trajectory. Further, policy impetus included, 1 GW under inter-state transmission scheme (ISTS) across various states and investments in Green Energy Corridor project. During the Union Budget 2016, the coal cess was doubled to `400/tonne, thereby, creating the resources to achieve the 175 GW target. The government´s commitment to improve grid infrastructure also reflected in the proposed additional depreciation for the plant and machinery acquired, installed for transmission activity.

What are some solutions that the government can consider to alleviate these problems?
To continue the momentum in the renewable energy, the government should consider the following policy recommendations:
- Long-term policy predictability: Accelerated Depreciation (AD) and Generation Based Incentive (GBI) should continue till 2022;
- Banks and financial institutions should earmark at least 20 per cent finance for renewable energy projects and provide finance for longer period of 20-25 years;
- SMEs should be supported by 5 per cent interest rebate for using renewable energy for captive requirement;
- Improve availability of grid and land infrastructure at state level;
- GST for RE projects at zero rate, since electricity is not subsumed under the proposed GST framework;
- Provide manufacturing with support to facilitate innovative financing, increase capabilities, facilitate job creation and meet the´Make in India´ initiative. Wind manufacturing capacities are created in India, while solar is imported from China.
Incentives for local manufacturing and job creation in the sector should be considered;
- Implement the EXIM practices of China and USA that gives a line of credit of $1 billion and $2 billion respectively, in case of exports by local companies. In India, EXIM offering is limited to $200 million per year. RBI should remove the 10 per cent limit imposed to one company or infuse $5 billion fresh equity to EXIM.

What are the areas of development you are working on?
Suzlon is a pioneer in innovation, products and technology not only in India but globally. We are industry leaders particularly in aerodynamic technology which is one of our biggest USP. We have our R&D centres in Germany, Netherlands, Denmark and India. Last year, we established a Blade Science Centre in Vejle, Denmark, which will work on the development of aerodynamics, pitch control systems, smart controls and new structures.

Another important and new area that we are working on is the wind-solar hybrid solution which leverage the complementary generation cycle of wind and solar. This enables better utilisation of the existing grid and also helps to save land and power evacuation infrastructure costs. Suzlon has a competitive advantage due to its existing development pipeline, infrastructure and Operations, Maintenance and Services (OMS) team of over 2,300 highly skilled technicians Additionally, we are developing advanced wind farm management technology to further optimise the performance of the wind farm. We will develop the ability to tailor not only the individual turbine´s performance with smart pitch control, but also to optimise the downstream wake-effect of all turbines in the park from any wind angle.

Digitisation of OMS services through improved IT will help better harness the power of our data so that systems such as SCADA can be further leveraged. This will offer improved transparency to our customers and increase generation through remotely applied algorithms

Further, to ensure optimal utilisation and integration of the grid, we are stepping up efforts and resources on scheduling and forecasting of wind power. We are continuously improving the forecasting of wind, which will measure the quantity of wind energy available and provide information on the frequency, voltage etc. in real time. This will help utilities to better plan their load dispatch schedules We relentlessly carry out continuous improvement programs such as value engineering for cost and weight reduction and performance enhancement to improve energy output for existing products. Suzlon continues to improve its design tools, software methods and know-how to decrease our product development cycle time for better future developments.

What is your focus on R&D?
Our R&D efforts are focused on lowering the LCoE by 20 per cent in the next five years with new turbines; making previously unviable sites viable through more efficient turbines to; continuing to increase our plant load factor and to stabilise the grid in India; we envision gigawatt size projects supported by increasing digitisation and best in class service.

Suzlon´s newest blades design will utilize carbon fibre in key areas of the blade. This reduces the weight of the blade and allows us to design even more aggressive air foils that generate more lift and less drag in the outboard portions of the blade. Combined with smarter pitch control systems these technologies enable larger, more efficient rotors thereby capturing more wind.

Our R&D efforts have resulted in path-breaking new products such as the S97 120 and S111 meter hybrid towers. The towers in addition to getting our latest rotor designs into winds with higher energy also require one third less concrete for their foundations and are easier to transport to the site. The S97-120 m is giving 35 per cent PLF in India, which is the highest PLF turbine in the country; while the S111-120 m is forecast to provide a 40-45 per cent PLF.

Is hybrid an option India is ready for? Do you have anything planned here?
´There is huge opportunity in wind and solar hybrid solutions given the complementary cycles of generation and the better utilisation of the grid. It has multiple benefits to offer as one does not have to duplicate costs such as land and evacuation infrastructure. And most importantly, Suzlon has an edge due to its existing development pipeline and infrastructure and national wide operations and maintenance strength.

We need to develop the infrastructure base for hybrid. The current infrastructure is based on either wind or either solar. There is a huge opportunity in wind - solar hybrid solutions given the complementary cycles of generation and the better utilisation of the installed infrastructure. However, a dedicated policy for hybrid is still awaited and we believe it will take 1-2 years for this opportunity to translate into a commercial scale.
Wind-Solar Hybrid has multiple benefits to offer. One does not have to duplicate costs such as land and evacuation infrastructure. And most importantly, Suzlon has an edge due to its existing development pipeline, infrastructure and nationwide operations and maintenance strength.
To stabilise the grid we need both the energies i.e. wind and solar. If we use both the energy together and put it in one grid, we can achieve 40 per cent to 50 per cent PLF. Utilisation of the grid is increasing which is the biggest bottleneck in renewables.
At the same time we are feeding double the capacity in the grid infrastructure and the stability in the grid system will be huge.
Our wind- solar hybrid projects are planned in the state of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.

How is the sector growing? Where does India stand on a global scale?
With ~28.5 GW, India attained 4th position in global wind power installed capacity. FY16 was a historic year for the Indian renewable industry as wind energy has surpassed all its previous records with ~3300MW installation. The previous highest installation was ~3196MW in 2011.

India´s wind energy sector has witnessed unprecedented acceleration last year, propelled by technology and conducive policy environment for renewables, by central and state governments. The growth was way higher than the industry estimates of 30 to 40 per cent.

In the last two years there has been a 100 per cent growth in renewable sector which has never happened in India´s energy history.

The industry has attracted an investment of over $3.16 billion and the cumulative installations of the sector is about 64 per cent of India´s total grid interactive renewable energy capacity.

The 50 per cent growth in installation vis-+á-vis the previous year (~2311 MW in FY15) demonstrates the industry´s preparedness to achieve 60 GW wind by 2022, with ~28.5GW cumulative wind installations in India, the sector is almost half done with the target.

Technology and innovation will continue to be the catalyst for the wind industry growth.

How is wind to compete with a strongly emerging solar sector?
´One must understand that wind and solar energy do not compete and rather complement each other. Solar in India is in addition to wind and not a substitute. Both technologies are required for ensuring the energy security of the country and to bring down the levelised cost of energy (LCoE).

Due to complementary generation profile of wind and solar, a combination of both the technology is required even from grid infrastructure investment point of view.
Wind is already at grid-parity and with over 28 GW installations, it is a proven and mature technology.
Government has set individual targets for wind and solar. The target is the same for both, wind and solar at 60 GW with an additional 40 GW in solar coming from rooftop installations
Wind employs over two million individuals in the manufacturing and projects side of the business.
India has exported wind products and technologies to over 30 countries in the world, so the sector itself is truly´Make in India´ not only for domestic market but also for the export market. You must appreciate that no other Asian country has achieved this feat in wind and the products are predominantly sold in the developed markets, like the US and Europe.
There is a huge opportunity in wind - solar hybrid solutions given the complementary cycles of generation and the better utilisation of the installed infrastructure.

Is wind a reliable sector for financial institutions to bank on?
In the last two years, the government´s policies are aimed to develop both solar vs wind. The concern on solar is increasing because of competitive bidding. The tariff of solar projects has gone down substantially low which is below Rs 5. Hence a lot banks are not comfortable to finance those projects because whether the cash flow is sufficient to service the project or not is a question. Wind has a track record of 20 years and hardly less than 0.5 or 0.6 per cent NPA is there. Wind sector is believed to be tested and safe secured investment. I believe, the financial institutions finance the projects after looking at whether the project can give sufficient cash flow or not.

In terms of O&M, what are the variables involved - for on and off-shore projects?
The O&M for on-shore and off-shore differs in many ways, but is also similar as the principle is the same. But, having said that, on offshore, the costs of installation are higher and the capacity of the products are higher rated to harness better quality ocean winds. The evacuation process is different as in most cases, the substations are better installed onshore. And the vagaries of nature needs to be taken into account. The corrosion factor, unpredictability of ocean currents and available of talent in the country in a new developing area of the renewable business are some of the challenges that needs to be considered. Access to the off-shore turbines is very difficult and expensive to move service staff and material. Product development, maintenance and ensuring the productive lifetime for the WTGs are factors that needs to be planned well in advance.

Kindly elaborate on technology evolutions that the sector has witnessed?
Aerodynamics is still the key to maximising output from wind turbines and there is continuous advancement in this space as well as in materials technology.
Improvements in CFD analysis and the resulting optimisation of rotor configuration and pitch control directly translate to overall increase in turbine and wind park production.

Suzlon´s next generation blade design will utilise carbon fibre in key areas of the blade. While reducing the weight of the blade, it allows us to design even more aggressive air foils that will generate more lift and less drag in the outboard portions of the blade. Combined with smarter pitch control systems, these technologies enable larger, more efficient rotors thereby harnessing more wind.

Another important advancement is taller towers. Suzlon´s hybrid tower uses a lattice base and tubular tower which uses a unique transition piece to join the upper and lower section of the tower. These towers make new heights easier to scale, require less material and hence cost less. They provide the desired combination of improved heights, foundations which are more efficient and use 1/3rd less concrete and are logistically friendly which makes lower wind sites increasingly viable.

Wind farm management will develop further to enhance control of the complete park. We are developing the ability to tailor, not only the individual turbine´s performance with smart pitch control, but also to optimise the downstream wake-effect of all turbines in the park from any wind angle.

How do you see domestic manufacturing for the sector shaping up in India?
Renewable industry can play two pivotal roles in facilitating the success of the´Make in India´ mission. Firstly, India can be transformed into a manufacturing hub for renewable energy technologies. While the country is still heavily reliant on imports, especially for solar PV cells and other components, by securing the supply chain for wind, solar and other renewable technologies in India, we can not only reduce the cost of these technologies, but also create value additions and employment in the country. Secondly, renewable energy is a key to the competitiveness of Indian manufacturing and exports. Take any major industry in India, and you see that power constitutes a critical input and cost. Owing to rapidly declining cost of energy from renewables, renewable energy sources such as wind are less expensive than the prevailing commercial or industrial tariff. In fact, many corporate houses, public sector units and small and medium enterprises, such as those in textiles, have already tapped the benefits of wind power to hedge their energy costs. Therefore, to develop a strong manufacturing and export base with global competitiveness, we need a large scale renewable energy foundation in India.

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