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Cover Story | April 2016

Wind energy is an attractive propostion for IPPs

Tulsi Tanti, Chairman, Suzlon Group

What has been the growth trend in demand for wind energy equipment over the last two years in India?

The global renewable energy sector has witnessed rapid growth in the last decade, driven by 3 key factors - widespread deployment of renewable energy technologies at increasingly competitive costs, efficiency brought in by hi-tech products driven by new age technology and new business models for distributed generation and services. Driven by the vision to mitigate climate change, world leaders are championing the cause of energy security, affordable energy and energy accessibility for all. The situation in India is no different.

The government has set targets of 175GW of renewable energy by 2022, of which wind will constitute 60GW. We have also committed, at COP21, to the targets of 30 per cent to 35 per cent carbon emission reduction and contribution of renewables to be 40 per cent of the energy mix by 2030. All this has led to an increased demand on renewable, especially wind which has been the primary source of renewable energy until now.

There has been a 30 per cent year on year growth in wind installations and this will only increase with the annual target of 5,000 MW required to meet the larger goals set by the government. Most of the wind energy supply chain has already been indigenised to India. This means that our demands will be met by local production. At the same time, we are looking to increase exports as a primary activity under the Make in India initiative. The industry has already witnessed high technology advancement as we strive for higher generating products. An increasing number of IPPs have also invested in the sector, which is a clear indicator of its attractiveness. All these developments point to strong growth in the demand for wind energy equipment as well as the potential that exists to meet this demand.

What are the emerging trends in wind energy equipment technologies?
We are witnessing a lot of innovations in wind energy technology as a result of this. The drivers of this innovation remain maximising wind energy generation with limited resources and reducing the cost of energy. The latest movement has been towards taller towers - the taller the towers, the higher the reach and the stronger the wind. But taller towers have limitations such as excessive weight, which leads to logistical and installation problems. Hence, the technology of the hybrid tower such as Suzlon´s S97 120m wind turbine generator (WTG) combines a lattice tower base with a tubular tower top, connected by a unique transition piece.

This gives the turbine a stronger base and greater height while also overcoming the limitation of weight. At the same time, it facilitates a larger rotor diameter as proven by Suzlon´s S111, which has a rotor diameter of 111.8 meters with a swept area of more than 9,500 square meters. Both these products, with higher hub height and larger rotor diameter, provide high generation even at low wind sites. This automatically translates to savings for the customer. That is why these innovations are considered some of the best technologies currently available.

Another really innovative idea that is presently being tried and tested is the commercially viable off-shore wind turbine for off-shore solutions. We have also heard of the Buoyant Airborne Turbine (BAT) - a mix of a blimp and a turbine, designed primarily to meet the needs for height and ease of installation and offering the advantage of reduced cost and time. Altaeros Energies is in the testing phase of this turbine and the results, up until now, have been positive. Other technologies that are under focus are those of energy storage solutions to meet the requirement of energy reliability, wind-solar hybrid solutions for energy stability and smart blades, smart loads and smart controls. We have also engaged in aero-elastic coupling and active controls.

What are the segments in which Indian wind energy equipment manufacturers are adopting global benchmarks in technologies?
Players are looking to innovation in design and technology to achieve a lower cost of energy and higher generation. Innovation in tower design is one of those areas in which we have established global benchmarks. The need of the hour is taller towers and larger rotors. This combination has been achieved through hybrid towers which have a lattice base that provides stability needed for height and tubular tower that provides the height.

We need both these advantages. Hence the hybrid tower with the unique transition component that makes one type of tower compatible with the other. This design gives us the advantages of larger rotor diameter, larger swept area, better energy generation, viability at low wind sites, ease of logistics and installation and a lower cost of energy. Towers definitely make up one category where we are setting benchmarks in design, cost and logistics.

The gearbox is another component in which we are taking path-breaking steps. We need this component to support the larger rotors and a robust, medium speed gear-box is being developed to accommodate our ever growing rotor systems. This medium speed drive train will help better manage even larger torque forces by using larger gears and slowing down the overall gearbox speed.

This will make the gearboxes more reliable and better equipped to manage our next generation of blades. I don´t really believe that we are lagging in any sector, but one area in which we can look into speedier development is that of off-shore wind energy solutions.

We have the opportunity to leverage the 7,600 km of coastline, after the National Off-shore Policy has been approved. But we are yet to commercially develop the equipment to meet this opportunity. The solution is under development and we hope that it will soon come into practical application. The wind energy industry, as a whole, has displayed massive growth and momentum which it plans to continue. We have targets to meet and a nation to power - we are working with the idea to set benchmarks across the sector and become the wind energy technology hub of the world.

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