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Wind energy calls for a revolution

EM NEWS BUREAU ,  Wednesday, May 04, 2011, 15:00 Hrs  [IST]

India has admittedly made significant strides in its wind energy pursuits, but needs to do much more. Development of new wind power capacity is progressing well—averaging some 1.7 GW per year in the recent past. However, there is need to bring in more efficiency in the entire exercise. This efficiency is basically of two kinds—first, bringing down the projects costs and second, utilizing land more efficiently.

One must appreciate that though wind power is clean and has zero fuel cost, wind power projects are very land sensitive. The power density of a wind power project, which is measured as the installed capacity per unit area, is inherently very low. Wind power projects also have an intrinsically low plant load factor; in the Indian context, it is 25 per cent in the best case. Hence, in a country like India where the land as a subject has always had a difficult time, it is all the more prudent to aim at maximum efficiency in land utilization. Wind farms installed in the early years of development were of very low rating, reflecting the technology available then. Secondly, wind farms were built for availing tax concessions and not with a view to developing efficient and commercially profitable power generation assets. Hence aspects like land use-efficiency were never really looked into.

There is immense scope to install high-power turbines in old wind farms and effectively add to installed capacity without expanding the geographical footprint. The Global Wind Energy Council has estimated that nearly 1 GW of capacity is possible through what is known as "re-powering" of old turbines.

The other area where India needs to focus on is expanding the domestic manufacturing base for wind turbine generators and related equipment. All leading multinationals in the WTG industry have a presence in India, but not all have been able to create a fully-localized supply chain. Just like in thermal power generation equipment, India has to rely on imports when it comes to sophisticated material and components.

There are also incipient signs that India has begun to source wind turbines from China—a déjà vu of thermal power equipment. China is growing in stature, both in terms of wind power installations and wind turbine equipment. It is learnt that China has four of the top ten WTG manufacturers in the world. China's wind power capacity addition in recent years has been nothing short of cyclonic, earning it world leadership. Although China is now busy meeting local demand, it would definitely want to explore export opportunities in future.

India must look seriously at this rewarding sector and make overall progress in not just wind farm development and local manufacturing capabilities, but should also create an investor-friendly and growth-oriented policy framework. Turbines will rotate reactively, but policy needs a proactive revolution!
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