Indian wind turbine technology is evolving. The industry is also confident of meeting the stiff renewable energy targets laid down by the government. The latest turbines to hit the market are being optimised for Indian wind conditions.
Though the current focus is on solar energy as far as the renewable energy sector is concerned, players in the wind energy segment are also confident of achieving the stiff targets that the government has set for this space. And of course, one major aspect that will determine the success of the wind energy segment would be the development of state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies for wind turbines, keeping in mind the peculiarities of the Indian market.
At the recently concluded first Renewable Energy Global Investors Meet & Government Expo (RE-Invest) at New Delhi, the Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers´ Association (IWTMA) announced its support to Ministry of New Renewable Energy (MNRE) for fulfilling the target of creating 60 GW of wind energy by the year 2022. IWTMA is an association formed to promote and harness wind energy in India. According to a statement issued by Madhusudan Khemka, Chairman IWTMA, ´We fully support the ´Make in India´ campaign´ with our turbines of state-of-the-art technology which has almost 70 per cent localisation.´ In an earlier interaction with POWER TODAY, Mahesh Palashikar , ´CEO - GE Renewable Energy, India Region had given us details of the MNC´s wind turbine offering,GE 1.7-103, specifically tailored to the Indian market: ´GE 1.7-103 wind turbine is an advanced brilliant onshore wind turbine, which is designed, developed & engineered in India, and it is specially designed for Indian low wind speed conditions. This wind turbine provides a dramatic 24 per cent increase in annual energy production compared to the 1.6-82.5 wind turbine at wind speed of 6.5 m/s.´ Palashikar had explained to us that GE´s strategy was to bring to India a few of the best technologies incubated by the American energy major, and localize them for Indian conditions. This particular GE wind turbine had a high localization content, with plans to progressively increase the same.
So what are the latest developments in wind turbine technology and how relevant will these developments be for generating wind power in Indian conditions? Says KR Nair, Vice President, Indian Wind Power Association, ´There have been significant improvements in technology on Wind Energy Generators (WEG) to produce electricity from wind. The improvements also include designing of taller towers and longer and lighter blades with high rotor diameter. As the power of wind is directly proportional to the swept area of the blades, an increase in rotor diameter results in capturing more energy, particularly in low windy areas.´ Nair explains that a taller tower also ensures capturing of higher and steadier wind resources. The combination of taller towers and large rotor diameters have been vital in bringing down the cost of generation of wind energy and also improved the wind turbine availability, utilisation and capacity factors over the past three years. ´So, the modern WEGs are increasingly cost-effective, more reliable and have scaled up in size to multi-mega watt power ratings,´ he adds. Most new windy sites in India offer low wind speeds, so the latest technologies that are beginning to be deployed in these sites are helping to combat these conditions. Nair says that further research efforts are on to address the challenges to greater use of wind energy, particularly from the low windy areas in India.
Says DV Giri, Secretary General, IWTMA, ´The technology of turbines (being used) in India is the same as turbine technology available in the world market. The size of the turbines varies from 250 kW to 2.5 MW. The development that has taken place now is that the technology is now catering to low and medium wind regimes, as best sites are exhausted.´ Giri says that turbines are now dependent on higher hub heights, say, up to 100 meters and rotor diameters again have increased over 100 to 115 meters with optimised aerofoil design for maximum energy capture. ´It is a matter of pride that the average PLF has in fact gone up at a time when we are moving into lower wind regimes,´ he adds.
INOX Wind Limited, a subsidiary of Gujarat Fluorochemicals Limited, has recently bagged contracts for wind power projects having a total capacity of 166 MW. It will supply 83 units of its advanced 2MW DFIG wind turbine generators (WTGs), which have one of the highest swept areas that would help it to maximise returns across the low wind sites prevalent in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Says Kailash Tarachandani, Chief Executive Officer, INOX Wind Limited, ´Advanced technology infusion will play a vital role in the sector growth and the government and private players are making efforts to invest in research pertaining to the technology requirements. With the emergence of wind IPPs, the focus has shifted towards utilising higher efficiency technologies to maximise project returns. The historical trends show that megawatt scale turbines are becoming more popular as compared to smaller capacity turbines.´
What about capacity utilisation in wind turbine installations in India? Says Giri, ´The manufacturing capacity in the country is 9,500 MW p.a., chasing a market of 2,500 MW p.a. The ambitious 60 GW by 2022 will not have any problems on manufacturing and certain component requirement of supply chain needs to be looked into. Capacity utilization is a factor of wind. As mentioned earlier, the best of technologies are available and the investors are able to get a post tax IRR of 16 per cent. Therefore, there is no relationship on low PLF (Plant Load Factor) to the technology. In fact PLF has gone up because of good technology in low wind regimes.´ Nair has some interesting points to make: ´The manufacturing capacity of WEG (Wind Energy Generators) exceeds the market demand in India as is the case anywhere in the world. However, with the ambitious target of 60,000 MW of wind energy by 2020, the demand per annum is projected as 8,000 to 10,000 MW. During the current financial year, the installation of wind projects is expected to be around 2,500 MW and so far the total installations in India is around 22,000 MW.´ Nair feels that a quantum jump from 22,000 to 60,000 MW of wind energy within five years is possible, considering the installed capacity of the WEG manufacturers. However, he adds some caveats: the IPPs and investors should be in a position to bring in adequate capital. And he says that there should be supportive policy measures from the government to create a clear and concise regulatory environment in India.
It´s not just technology that has been hampering the rapid growth of wind installations in India. As Tarachandani comments, ´In the last few years, wind energy was being overshadowed by solar energy due to factors like withdrawal of accelerated depreciation benefit and generation based incentive schemes which both have now been reintroduced. Other major challenge was that the wind potential sites fall under the revenue land. Most of the renewable facilities are located at remote locations far away from load centres, therefore transmission evacuation poses a problem due to smaller capacities.´ Tarachandani says that in wind power, appropriate location is crucial for deciding capacity utilisation and the projects are concentrated at some States only, thus limiting the viability of the projects. ´But as the government, through MNRE has announced and drafted initiatives to boost the renewable sector to address the issues of land allotment and provide concessions/subsidies, the sector is expected to gain pace and post a robust growth,´ he adds.
Ergo, renewed interest from global players, the favourable macroeconomic environment, the government´s ´Make in India´ push and the adoption of latest technology by domestic manufacturers, are all important factors contributing to the growth of the turbine industry.
A few solutions
DV Giri, Secretary General, IWTMA, identifies the challenges faced by wind turbine manufacturers.
The challenges that are faced by the manufacturers can be broken into policy, evacuation and land issues. Policy: On behalf of the investors, wind turbine manufacturers would like to see long-term visibility of policy for Accelerated Depreciation customers and GBI for IPP customers to attract investment. A good tariff regime coupled with open access should give meaningful IRR.
Evacuation: Evacuation is a great challenge and dynamic things are taking place now with the synchronization of the Southern Grid with the National Grid and the ambitious programme of PGCIL through the Green Corridor, as portability of power is important from wind-rich States to other States. It will also help the developers to get their turbines working without any backing down and enjoy the real ´must-run status´.
Land: Acquisition of land and allotment, though a State subject, is one of the greatest impediments. The delays in getting the paperwork can hamper the project. Getting forest land clearances is a big task. It may be emphasised here again that wind turbines do not occupy much of land and are placed on footprint basis, enough for the turbine and its electrical systems, and not more than two acres per megawatt.
How to optimise wind energy production: Key Issues
Need to develop grid integration, primarily forecasting and scheduling of wind power and seamless grid connectivity;
Wind-solar hybrid systems, to optimise both the renewable energy sources to minimise use of land, maximise output by hours and reduction in costs;
Availability of land with good wind resource will be a major constraint in the coming years as most of the windy sites would already be utilized;
Transmission being a critical aspect for future wind capacities, adequate transmission planning needs to be done;
Energy storage solutions to feed power during peak period;
Comprehensive policy on wind solar and hybrid to optimise generation. (From the proceedings of an IWTMA-sponsored panel discussion titled ´Onshore Wind´ at the first Renewable Energy Global Investors Meet & Government Expo, with participation from manufacturers, project developers, investors, grid operators and bankers).
´Wind energy generators have the capacity to produce 10,000 MW or more per annum´
What are the latest developments in wind turbine technology and how relevant will these developments be for generating wind power in Indian conditions? There have been significant improvements in technology in Wind Energy Generators (WEG), to produce electricity from wind. The improvements also includes designing of taller towers and longer and lighter blades with high rotor diameter. As the power of wind is directly proportional to the swept area of the blades, an increase in rotor diameter results in capturing more energy, particularly in low windy areas. A taller tower also ensures capturing of higher and steadier wind resources. The combination of taller tower and large rotor diameters has been vital in bringing down the cost of generation of wind energy and also improved the wind turbine availability, utilization and capacity factors over the past three years. So, the modern WEGs are increasingly cost-effective, more reliable and have scaled up in size to multi-mega watt power ratings.
Since the new windy sites available in India have low wind (velocities), these technological advancements have helped in installation of wind energy projects in those areas effectively. Apart from the development of WEG, the technological advancements have also been made, making the development and operation of wind farms more efficient and profitable. Further research efforts are on to address the challenges to greater use of wind energy, particularly from the low windy areas in India.
What are the specific challenges that wind turbine manufacturers face in India? What is the current manufacturing capacity of wind turbines in India? And going ahead, do we see any expansion?
The challenges to manufacturers of WTG include establishing and managing an effective supply chain and at the same time identifying and complying with relevant certification standards. They have also to manage cost, monitor the inventory and do the vendor development on a continuous basis.
Unlike in Europe and other countries, the business model in India is different, wherein most of the WEG manufacturers offer a turnkey solution from concept to commissioning. Apart from supplying WEG, they are also responsible for the land, grid connectivity, facilitation of power purchase agreement and operations & maintenance of the WEG. Hence the role of the investors is limited only to providing the capital. The challenges being faced by the WEG manufacturers include problems in land acquisition and grid connectivity in various States. There are also logistical constraints in transporting the large blades and components over the highways to the site.
The current manufacturing capacity of WEG is to the tune of more than 10,000 MW per annum. However, most of the manufacturers are producing WEG at less than 50 per cent of their installed capacity. With the favourable regulatory and stable incentive policies in place, the manufacturers can optimise their production if the investors are in a position to provide the capital. The expansion of manufacturing capacity is not a constraint, provided the level of infrastructure and support from the utilities and the government for the industry.
Are turbine manufacturers utilising their capacity to the fullest?
The manufacturing capacity of WEG exceeds the market demand in India as is the case anywhere in the world.
However, with the ambitious target of 60,000 MW of wind energy by 2020, the demand per annum is projected as 8,000 to 10,000 MW. During the current financial year, the installation of wind projects is expected to be around 2,500 MW and so far the total installations in India is around 22,000 MW. A quantum jump from 22,000 to 60,000 MW of wind energy within five years is of course, possible, considering the installed capacity of the WEG manufacturers, provided the IPPs and investors are in a position to bring in adequate capital. Also there should be supportive policy measures from the government so as to create a clear and concise regulatory environment in India.
In this case, is there a market in India for smaller wind turbines because rural areas require micro-grid connectivity? Is this a good and potential market?
Though Small Wind Turbines (SWT) are considered adaptable, flexible and easy to use technology for generating cheap electricity, there are several barriers in adopting it on a large scale in India. Firstly, SWT is also site-specific (like large WEG) and requires higher than average wind speeds and minimal turbulence for generating electricity. As compared to the technology for large wind turbines, the SWTs made in India are not efficient while the imported one is costly and not economical. Till such time, the technology for SWT is developed and standardized in India, along with identifying suitable areas for its deployment, off-grid solar should be a better option in rural areas,
What are the turbines that India needs to produce keeping in mind the nature of wind energy in the country?
The wind density in India is relatively low and the new wind sites available are of low wind regimes in potential areas, viz., Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. To harness the wind energy from low windy areas, it requires state-of-the-art turbines with aerodynamic design, a larger rotor, use of lighter and larger blades and higher towers. There are also WEGs available with direct drive and variable speed (gearless) operations, using advance power electronics, which are suitable for low windy areas. The recent one is the direct drive with permanent magnet technology.
In terms of repowering, what is the potential available in such wind sites in the country?
The two potential sites earmarked for repowering of wind projects are Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. Recently, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) has entrusted a study on repowering to GIZ, a German consultant, under the supportive programme of the Indo-German Energy Forum. The study will cover the States of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu for replacing the Wind Energy Generators (WEG) with a capacity of 500 kW or less and more than 10 years old. It is estimated that around 2,700 MW of WEGs are suitable for repowering. There are many challenges to repowering and it is expected that after submitting the report of study in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu by the consultants, MNRE may come out with a policy on repowering.
How much is the export potential for wind turbines made in India? Is our local export industry technologically capable enough to meet the latest global standards? Though some manufacturers in India are exporting WEGs and the components to Europe and other countries, in a small way, it is difficult to assess the total export potential at this stage. India is a strong hub for manufacturing WEGs with the state-of-the-art technology with around 18 manufacturers. Some manufacturers are in joint venture, some are subsidiaries of the foreign companies and some are Indian companies with their own technology. All the technologies available in India meet the globally certified standards.
With wind targets increased by the government, do we see increase in order books and by what percentage?
As mentioned, the manufacturers of WEG in India have the capacity to produce 10,000 MW or more per annum. The order book position will depend on the IPPs and foreign investors bringing the capital as well as the supportive policy measures being taken by the government, post RE-Invest.