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Interaction | January 2015

Grid connectivity and transmission facilities are still major issues

K R Nair, Vice President, Indian Wind Power Association speaks on the issues that face the wind energy industry and suggests a few measures for overcoming them.
Which are the major technological issues facing the wind energy sector in the country today?

The rapid expansion of wind power in India has been driven by a combination of its environmental benefits and improving the cost competitiveness with other conventional generation of power. The steady advance in technology for the last several years has resulted in improvements in the wind power plants, particularly the components relating to utility interface, generator, the power electronic converter, etc. The modern wind turbines are also capable of providing reactive power control, low-voltage ride through, output control and ramp rate control.

As with any modern technology, wind power technology also brings with it a variety of issues. A wind power plant operates only when the wind blows, with power levels varying with the strength of the wind. The infirm nature of wind and the resultant intermittent operations of the wind power plant present a number of challenges to the Utility System operators and planners in various States (State Load Despatch Centre) to integrate the wind energy into the system, while simultaneously maintaining the system´s balance. Unlike conventional generation, viz., thermal or hydro generation, wind power is not readily despatchable, which affects the utility system operator while managing it. Many a time, this leads to curtailment of wind power on the ground of grid safety. Though ´must run´ status has been accorded to the wind energy in the ´Grid Code´, it is seldom made into practice by the States.

Most of the wind resources are located away from the place of demand for electricity. Hence there is inadequate transmission structure to transport the wind energy to the area where it is needed. Wind energy plants can take relatively a year or so to site, construct and commission, but it takes two to five years for constructing the transmission structures.

Upgrades and additions to transmission facilities on a continuous basis are needed to access locations with wind energy potential. Improvements in forecasting can also help the utility system planners to determine how much wind energy generation will be available at a given point, but there are forecasting errors which could be minimised with modern tools and methods.

The lack of grid connectivity for wind energy installations has been a major issue in the past. Are we close to overcoming the same?
The inadequate grid connectivity and transmission facilities are still major issues in integrating the wind energy into the power system. The Green Energy Corridor which is being built by the Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCIL) has started implementation and it may take another two to three years for making it fully operational. The Green Energy Corridor, which has taken into account the growth of renewable energy till 2030, at the current incremental level of growth, will connect all RE rich States viz., Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. While PGCIL is responsible for connectivity to Inter State Transmission System (ISTU), the intra-State connectivity is the responsibility of the concerned State Transmission Utility (STU). Since most of the grid congestion takes place in the intra-State, it is for the STU to provide adequate transmission facilities within the State.

The full implementation of the Green Energy Corridor and the setting up of the Renewable Energy Management Centres along with it, in all seven States for providing effective forecasting and scheduling would help in to some extent overcoming the grid congestion and evacuation issues.

What is the potential for offshore wind energy in India? Are there any technological barriers to development of offshore wind installations?
India is estimated to have 350 GW of offshore wind energy capacity along its coastlines. In India, recently an MoU was signed by the government of India with several PSUs for setting up demonstration offshore wind power projects along the Gujarat coast.

The challenges to the development of offshore wind technology include a higher cost of wind energy as compared to onshore wind, technological challenges in installation of project, electrical cabling and grid inter-connection. There is lack of critical data on the environmental as well as on the siting effects of turbines on the installation, operation and its maintenance. The proposed demonstration plants will establish key pathways for collecting the required data and will also act as a testing site for new offshore turbines for commercial exploitation by investors in the distant future.

What are the facilities available in India for development of wind turbines?
The manufacturing sector in India for wind turbines has grown and matured with the installations of wind energy projects in various parts of the country. India is today a major hub for wind turbine manufacturing with a diverse product range and with an installed capacity of more than 10,000 MW. There are also in-house R&D centres having been set up by the manufacturers for product development. Taking advantage of the lower manufacturing cost in India, most of the critical components of turbines, viz., blades, generators, towers etc., are produced locally. There are also many sub-component and ancillary manufacturers supporting the turbine manufacturers. Hence the local content in the manufacturing of turbines is around 60 to 80 per cent. Many Indian manufacturers are also selling turbines and the components in the global markets viz., Europe, Australia etc.

In what way will the Indian Wind Power Association help in the advancement of the sector, as far as technological help is concerned? What are the major technological issues that it plans to tackle?
The Indian Wind Power Association (IWPA) has a membership of around 1,300 consisting of generators, developers, manufacturers, consultants etc. IWPA has State Units in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan which are actively engaged in taking up the respective State regulatory and policy issues. The National Office of IWPA is in Chennai and a Northern Regional Council is at Delhi, which is responsible for interacting with the Central government on policy and regulatory issues. IWPA has been taking up the evacuation issues, particularly in Tamil Nadu

Devarajan Mahadevan
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