The government has set an annual capacity addition target of 10,000 MW for wind energy. As all the stakeholders involved in this industry gear up for this ambitious target, we examine the challenges that lie ahead.
India is the fifth largest wind energy producer in the world, after China, the US, Germany and Spain, and the government has ambitious plans to add 10,000 MW of wind energy capacity on an annual basis. However, the future growth of the industry faces a number of hurdles-the primary ones being lack of state-of-the-art technology, inadequate transmission infrastructure, intermittent and unstable wind conditions over much of the country, financial bottlenecks and lack of enforcement of favourable governmental reforms.
´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,´ says KR Nair, Vice President, Indian Wind Power Association.
Despite the hurdles, stakeholders are confident that the winds of change are blowing in the right direction. ´The wind energy sector is a promising sector in India. It has the lowest capital cost and generates power at rates lower than the grid rates. The turbine industry presently employs about 60,000 people and with the expansion of the industry it is expected to create 1,20,000 new jobs by 2020,´ says Abhijit Kulkarni, Head of Sales - Renewable Energy Segment, SKF India.
In a statement released during the launch of the Indian Wind Energy Alliance Sumant Sinha, first Chairman of IWEA and Chairman and CEO of ReNew Power, said, ´The potential of the wind sector in India is far greater than what is currently being projected there is a lot of scope for the wind energy sector to grow in India and government´s support is critical to achieving the national objectives specially given the government´s renewed interest on wind and other renewables.´
But though the potential is there for all to see, like elaborated earlier, there are a number of glitches that have to be ironed out. For example, though wind power addition has been growing in the country, lack of grid connectivity is a major issue. ´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,´ says Nair. However, he feels that the scenario might change as States begin to revamp their grid infrastructure and start improving last-mile connectivity. ´While PGCIL is responsible for connectivity to the 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,´ says Nair.
There are others who concur with this view. In an earlier interaction, Mahesh Palashikar , CEO, GE Renewables, India, said: ´The ´Green Corridor´ is a significant initiative. However, inadequate transmission infrastructure planning at State level continues to be a challenge as State Transmission System Plans do not take into account RE capacity buildup. Therefore, private sector participation by way of new business models in transmission infrastructure development is as important as a dedicated institution within State governments to facilitate renewable energy transmission planning.´
Technological improvements in wind turbine technology have also given some cheer to Indian players. ´India is looking at several gigawatts of wind power generation, with larger individual sites, and probably offshore generation as well in future. The design, construction and operation of large-scale, remote wind power plants, will require reliable transmission connections to the grid. Recent advances in power electronics and DC transmission technology will provide innovative solutions to our future challenges,´ says Lalit Tejwani, Country Manager, Rongxin Power Electronic Co Ltd.
But many sites in India have low wind speeds, and wind velocities also vary considerably across the year. These problems require specialised and localised solutions. For example, GE has developed a wind turbine, the 1.7-103, which is developed for India´s low wind speed conditions. This is the multinational´s first product developed specifically for India. Suzlon´s German arm Senvion SE has developed the 6.2 M152 prototype turbine, with a diameter of 152 meters, and the company says that ´blades of this size have never been developed, built, transported and assembled, and such a large rotor star has never been pulled and assembled.´ Adds Nair, ´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.´
´With steadily growing electricity demand, countries around the world are facing the challenge of expanding their grid to keep up with requirements, while addressing environmental targets. Since wind energy is commercially viable option, several very large offshore and remote wind farms being built. Electrically interconnecting these remote wind power sources to the grid provide new engineering challenges. Direct Current Transmission is offering a superior solution for a number of reliability and stability issues associated with connection especially for wind farms,´ adds Tejwani.
The concept of repowering older wind energy installations, a concept proven and tested in other major countries, has still not taken off in the country, despite the immense potential. ´Countries like Germany and Denmark have extensively repowered their old installed wind farms to bring the fleet to contemporary technology standards. We see a need for implementing repowering at a wider scale in our country. Repowering has lot of merits, it can be undertaken on the existing wind farm boundary, it does away with the hassle of land acquisition, and uses large amount of existing infrastructure,´ says Palashikar. He adds that India has immense repowering potential with existing wind capacity 4 GW coming from installations 10 years or older, and turbines with less than 500kW ratings, on rich wind sites. The winds of change are blowing through the wind energy segment. Despite the challenges and hurdles that exist, 2015 could well prove to be the year that marks the blossoming of the industry in India.