But given the environment, companies feel investments will be feasible only with feed-in tariffs not competitive bidding
The government of India has teed off industrialising the new Union Territory of Ladakh by inviting the wind industry to put up wind farms there.
A high level meeting was held in Leh recently, attended by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, the army, the Border Roads Organization and the Ladakh Renewable Energy Development Agency and the National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE), which made a presentation there.
However, the industry fears that the government’s adamant stand on sticking to determining tariff — prices at which wind energy companies will sell their power to utilities — by competitive bidding method rather than a fixed ‘feed-in tariff’, will kill the initiative before it is born.
According to NIWE, which had put up 25- and 50-metre masts to measure wind speeds many years ago, the potential in the valley is immense. It estimates that if you put up 120-metre turbines, the potential is as high as 100,000 MW.
Even at 50 metre, the potential is about 5,000 MW. At this height the wind speeds measured between 3.12 metre per second (Diskit site) to 6.60 mps (Chushul site). But then, nobody puts up turbines on top of such dwarf towers any more these days. The higher you go, the windier it gets — so the potential is quite good.
The issue though is how to get those tall towers, nacelles and blades over the mountains and into the valleys. The roads are not wide enough and negotiating the bends is impossible. New roads would need to be built — hence BRO’s presence.
Populating the valley with wind turbines might call for tower and blade plants to be set up right there. Any incentives? The industry is asking.
The air is thinner up there, so even if it blows reasonably fast, its ability to push the blades is not as good as in the plains.
And, there is the vexing issue of ice forming on the blades in winter, where temperatures easily plummet to minus 20 degrees. So, you’d need contrivances to de-ice the blades.
With all these, it is costlier to put up wind turbines in Ladakh. An industry insider, who attended the meeting, said that it would cost no less than ₹9 crore a MW, which is at least a good ₹2 crore more than the cost of putting up a turbine in Gujarat or Tamil Nadu.
The industry has proposed a viable, fixed-tariff and visibility of business for setting up plants there. However, it is learnt that Bhanu Prasad Yadav, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, categorically ruled out fixed tariffs. Tariffs would be determined by competitive bids. Nor would any company be assured of a site allotment, even if the company puts up its own mast and generates wind data.
Wind solar hybrid
Ladakh has high solar potential too. With clear air and more albedo because of the snowy mountains, power generation from solar plants will be good. It is learnt that the Ministry is keen on promoting solar too, perhaps in combination with wind plants.
“With right mix of hybrid of wind and solar, the combined capacity utilisation factor could be more than 45 per cent and this would optimise the transmission system also,” NIWE said in its presentation.