In conversation with GE spokesperson

‘For India, our plan is to eventually grow the WTG assembly capacity to 450 MW a year’

 

GE Energy is one of the world’s leading suppliers of power generation and energy delivery technologies — providing comprehensive solutions for coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear energy; renewable resources such as wind, solar and biogas, and other alternative fuels. The company’s commitment towards environment has been further enhanced by its wind turbine business, as it believes wind power will be an integral part of the world energy mix throughout the 21st century.

GE has become one of the world’s foremost wind turbine suppliers today, having over 17,000 worldwide wind turbine installations. The company’s knowledge and expertise in wind power technology spans over two decades. With India making a concerted effort towards going green and saving the planet, the American multinational conglomerate is making wise investments on this front.

GE plans to invest Rs. 1,000 crore in its India operations. The company is setting up a new multi-model facility at Pune. GE is considering local manufacturing of wind turbine components that could substantially reduce the cost of equipment for wind energy customers as well as bring advanced technology to India. The firm currently imports complex components such as blades from China. It will also assemble and test wind turbines, mainly for the Indian market.

The company has tied up with the Greenko Group to develop wind energy projects totalling up to 500 MW of capacity. On its part, Greenko has not only committed $65 million for the venture, but has also created a subsidiary called Greenko Wind Project Private Ltd. The joint venture will own the pipeline of wind projects that Greenko is currently developing in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Rajasthan. The first project, a 65-MW wind farm in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra, is planned for completion in December and will use GE’s 1.6-MW turbines.

 

InWind Chronicle spoke to GE spokesperson to unveil the company’s plans for the rapidly growing Indian wind market and to learn about its global aspirations.

 

IWC: GE Energy’s interest in the Indian clean tech sector is as varied as the company’s expertise in different segments. Can you trace GE Energy’s growth in the Indian renewable energy, and particularly wind energy, sector.

GE Energy: Changing and growing energy needs are driving new opportunities for a more reliable, affordable and efficient supply of electric power with zero greenhouse gas emissions. That is why we continue to drive investments in cutting edge wind turbine technology, differentiating ourselves with leading technology in production, efficiency and reliability. In line with our commitment, we have set up a local assembly unit and have also invested in developing a local supply chain. Our engineering and research teams (Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Mumbai) have taken a lead in several key initiatives including waste to value, rural electrification, smart grid, and low wind speed regime wind turbines, amongst others to bring optimum technology with highest standards of reliability and quality to the marketplace

We have continued to drive investments in cutting-edge wind turbine technology, differentiating ourselves with leading technology in production, efficiency and reliability. Build on a strong power generation heritage, GE’s current offering ­1.6 wind turbine ­is designed and built on the success of 1.5 MW series with over 17,000 turbines installed worldwide. GE’s commitment to improving customer value and technology evolution is reinforced by such ongoing investment in product development, with more than $1.5B invested since 2002 in driving reliable and efficient renewable energy technology.

IWC: GE is coming up with a Rs. 700-crore multi-product manufacturing facility at Pune. Besides assembling and testing of wind turbines, will the company also manufacture the components here? What other development plans has the company chalked out for the Indian wind sector?

GE Energy: Early 2011, in line with our commitment, we have set up our local assembly wind unit in Pune. And, have also invested in developing a local supply chain to create a larger sourcing base from India. The plant assembles GE’s 1.5 - 77 & 1.6 - 82.5 & 1.6 - 100 models of the wind turbines, which is most suitable for India’s low wind regimes. We plan to eventually grow the capacity to 450 MW yearly, in line with the growth in demand.

In March 2011, Jeff Immelt announced that GE India would set up a multi-facility infrastructure manufacturing unit in India. The facility would largely focus on equipment for the energy sector

IWC: What opinion do you have of the Indian wind market and what sort of policy and regulatory changes should be incorporated to help it move ahead?

 

GE Energy: India has installed 2.3 GW of wind projects in the last fiscal year, which was a record year for installations. We would like to commend the policies enacted by MNRE, CERC and the state regulatory bodies that have helped continued growth of the sector. The introduction of generation based incentive program has shifted the market focus from investment incentives to production incentive, which is very relevant in the backdrop of energy shortfall in the country today. GE believes that India’s renewable energy policy framework has the potential to be shaped into a comprehensive, strong foundation for the sustained growth of wind power in India.

 

IWC: MNRE recently announced doing away with the minimum wind power density criteria, which will potentially open up new sites for wind power development. As a WTG manufacturer having a strong presence in India, what do you have to say to this initiative?

 

GE Energy: At GE, we know that renewable energy will be an integral part of the world energy mix throughout the 21st century. GE believes that India’s renewable energy policy framework has the potential to be shaped into a comprehensive, strong foundation for the sustained growth of wind power in India. India has significant wind energy potential and our commitment is to help our partners and customers design and implement wind energy solutions for their unique energy need offering wind turbines that are able to harness the potential from low wind speed sites in India.

 

IWC: GE recently entered into a joint venture with Chinese firm HEC. How do you hope to benefit from this tie-up in the Chinese wind sector?

 

GE Energy: In September 2010 GE announced a joint venture with a subsidiary of Harbin Power Equipment Company to supply wind turbines to customers in China. The JV will manufacture GE-designed wind turbines for near-shore and offshore applications in China. This partnership will enable GE to participate in the growth of what has become the world’s largest wind market.

 

IWC: China has introduced technical standards for the wind industry. How will this impact manufacturers like you operating in the country’s wind energy segment? What is your prediction of the Chinese wind market?

 

GE Energy: GE welcomes the wind technical standards that China has introduced, which are intended to bring the market in line with international norms for reliability and quality. China is projected to sustain annual additions of 10+ GW of wind to reach its 2020 goal.

 

IWC: Last year, GE bought Norwegian company ScanWind with the aim to find a foothold in the Scandinavian country. However, GE has decided to venture out of the offshore project it had planned in Norway, which is known to have very good wind resource. What really led GE to take such a decision?

 

GE Energy: GE is still very much in the offshore wind space and recently commissioned a prototype 4.1 MW direct-drive offshore wind turbine in the harbor of Gothenburg, Sweden. This prototype is a direct result from our ScanWind investment. Offshore wind will command a growing share of wind growth in Europe and GE intends to be part of the growth.

 

IWC: The Eurozone crisis is telling on the health of RE firms and new projects are getting affected. What impact is it having on GE Energy’s business projects/ plans in Europe?

 

GE Energy: The debt crisis in Europe is raising the cost of financing new renewable energy projects, creating some near-term uncertainty. However, European governments remain committed to their long-term goals for renewables deployment so we expect this region to remain a global growth hub.

 

IWC: How is the 2-year, $3 million project from US DOE for developing huge WTGs with superconductivity progressing? What innovations do you see coming out of this programme?

 

GE Energy: GE is involved in a US DOE project to develop a wind turbine generator that could support large-scale wind projects in the 10-15 MW range. It aims to draw on innovations like MRI magnetic and cooling technologies to provide greater economies of scale and lower the cost of electricity. We are currently focused on conceptual design.

 

For more details please contact: Anagha Bhambri, at inwea01@gmail.com / Ashima Varma at ashimaswarup@gmail.com