Shri V Subramanian, secretary, ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) has the primary responsibility of promoting renewable energy use and devices in India, which are considered to be immense strategic importance to the country from energy security and environmental viewpoint. InWIND interviewed the secratry for his views with regard to issues on wind power development in the country.
InWIND: Over the last few years, in relative terms, there has been a significant growth in rate of wind power development in the country. Yet, at present we have only about 4% of the total installed generation capacity and about 1% in terms of total electricity consumed in the country. The recent IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report calls for immediate action to counter GHG (Green House Gas) emissions. Wind energy is an effective way of limiting or avoiding GHG emissions—your views on the long-term prospects of this clean energy technology in India?
Secretary: One should appreciate that India has also witnessed a significant growth rate in the exploitation of wind energy during the last five years. The annual installation during 1999 to 2002 was about 200 MW per year. This has increased to 800 MW in 2003-04 and 1100 MW in 2004-05, which has further increased to more than 1700 MW during 2005-06 and 2006-07. India has recorded a growth rate significantly higher than the average global growth rate in wind power installation. Apart from the favourable policy support from the centre and the state governments, the private sector has also shown a great deal of dynamism, resulting in significant growth. It would not be correct to look at the RE (renewable energy) installed capacity in terms of percentages of the total capacity alone. The wind sector is expected to grow at a faster rate during the 11th plan period also (2007 – 2012). Accordingly, capacity addition of about 11000 MW is anticipated during the above period.
InWIND: In the past, InWEA has worked with MNRE in developing a proposal for a generation linked incentive similar to PTC in US. Kindly comment on the likely Policy changes with regard to wind energy.
Secretary: There is a general agreement on the introduction of production linked incentives for promotion of renewable power including wind power. This has been reflected in the integrated energy policy report of the government. This ministry has carried out a study in association with the world institute of sustainable energy, Pune. A tentative mechanism has been suggested in the report. It is under discussion with various stake holders. There are issues relating to its implementation as the present fiscal incentives are related to accelerated depreciation and in turn to the income tax assessment of the investors. The change-over would obviously benefit the independent power producers who presently cannot derive the benefits and would also broaden the investor base substantially. Implementation of the scheme would, however, depend upon the approval of the scheme by the government.
InWIND: Inadequate power evacuation infrastructure is one of the barriers to wind power development. In Tamil Nadu, windfarms are often shut down in peak season due to inadequate grid capacity to evacuate the power. Looking at the seriousness of the problem, what kind of measures are being taken up by MNRE?
Secretary: The grid related issues are essentially required to be solved by the concerned state governments through their electricity boards and distribution companies in consultation with developers and investors. Possibly, power trading companies could also play a significant role in this regard and efforts are on to rope them in. Wherever possible, the ministry takes up the issues with the state governments to expedite augmentation of the evacuation facilities. As regards Tamil Nadu, considering its fast growth in the country, the issue was considered by TNERC (Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission) in great detail and they had asked TNEB (Tamil Nadu Electricity Board) to provide the required evacuation facilities expeditiously. TNEB is making all possible efforts in this direction. Besides, possibility of using the grid facilities of power grid corporation for evacuation of wind electricity from feasible locations is being explored.
InWIND: Is it possible for MNRE to offer financial assistance to the States or to project developers to meet the cost of power evacuation from main wind resource areas to appropriate grid levels?
Secretary: The ministry is of the view that crutches of this sort would impede the growth of the sector and all evacuation efforts would be held back for sanction of financial assistance. It is felt that it would be a retrograde measure in a sector that is growing well.
InWIND: India has a huge coastline, what kind of initiatives are underway to possibly tap the offshore wind potential ?
Secretary: Under the National Wind Monitoring Programme, wind data are obtained from 54 coastal locations. The western coastline has modest potential. While the Gujarat coastline has reasonable potential, it is prone to severe cyclonic conditions. So far, two locations at Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu and Mundra at Gulf of Kutch have shown good potential, where we have wind power density of about 350 to 500 watt per Sqm. In Europe, most of the offshore wind power projects are being set up at locations which possess wind power density beyond 800 watts per Sqm, which is considered as economical to invest in offshore wind power. While designing wind turbines for offshore locations, several additional factors are important, such as the sea-state, marine conditions, evacuation arrangements, cost of installation O&M aspects, corrosion etc. Though wind resource appear to be modest along our coast line, further investigations are required before offshore projects can be taken up.
InWIND: The wind power potential has been estimated at 45,000 MW in 1991. Since then not only the technology has improved immensely but also many more wind resource areas have been identified. Is there any effort being undertaken to re-assess the potential?
Secretary: It is a fact that the wind regime in India is rather modest and major part of the estimated potential of 45000 MW also lies in areas having WPD (Wind Power Density) of 200-250 watt per sqm., which would enable only a low plant load factor. At the same time, it would be erroneous to view capacity installed against potential assessed, since wind sector growth started just over a decade ago. If one examines the capacity and potential of thermal and hydel resources in the country, it would be evident that the wind sector has been growing at a significant rate. Various other projections ranging from 60,000 MW to 1,00,000 MW have been floated based on different assumptions of land requirement, higher hub-height, larger rotor diameter etc. C-WET (Center for Wind Energy Technology) is continuously engaged in exploring more and more wind potential areas, including the north-eastern and the northern regions. Potential locations as and when identified based on standardized wind resource assessment techniques, are added to the list. Latest information could be accessed from the web site of C-WET. Recently, the preparation of wind atlas for India has been taken up in association with RISO National Laboratory, Denmark, which is expected to be completed by 2008-09. A realistic reassessment of potential will be possible, once the wind atlas is available.
InWIND: Project developers are often not able to place orders for wind turbines because of a supply side shortage. What kind of measures are being taken to enhance the wind turbine manufacturing capacity in the country?
Secretary: It is well-known that the wind turbine manufacturing capacity in India is in the private sector. There has been a demand driven expansion of the manufacturing facilities in India during the last 3-4 years and most of the manufacturers have expanded their facilities. Component manufacturing facilities for gear boxes, blades and material for blades have also been set up in the country recently. Government assistance for import of specified components and materials with concessional customs duty is being continued.
InWIND: Small wind turbines can be used in rural electrification, particularly in hilly and coastal areas. A subsidy program of the MNRE has not taken off on a scale desired. What kind of measures are being taken to promote small wind turbines?
Secretary: Small wind turbines also require a specified wind speed as per their design specifications and appropriate site conditions for satisfactory functioning. Setting up of the aero generators without careful assessment of wind resources and site conditions would only result in infructuous expenditure and may lead to a bad image for the sector. Further, aero-generators are promoted as hybrid with SPV systems. Improper system integration of such hybrid systems will not deliver the promised services. The delivered cost of energy from such systems could be extremely high. These limitations warrant a careful strategy for implementation. MNRE has been promoting such systems with high dose of capital subsidy varying from 50% to 75% of the capital cost, which comes to about Rupees 0.15 million (1.5 lacs) to Rs. 0.2 million (2.0 lacs) per kilowatt. A testing facility for aero-generators has been recently set up at C-WET, Chennai, so that standard type-tested systems are available for large scale promotion. A few manufacturers of aero-generators, who were dependent on imported aero-generators, have taken the initiative to indigenize the popular sizes and models of aero-generators with local components. MNRE, in consultation with the State nodal agencies is evolving a mechanism to promote more reliable aero-generator/hybrid systems.
InWIND: In many European countries, there is a provision for Net Metering that allows even households to set up small wind turbines. Do you think net-metering can be implemented in India too?
Secretary: The size of aero-generators and the grid characteristics prevalent in the country may not be suitable for implementation of net-metering. Aero-generators and hybrid systems with PV has a wide scope as decentralized and stand-alone systems in the country. While one cannot rule out grid integrated renewable energy systems based on net-metering or two way metering, the distribution sector has to acquire a certain amount of maturity and sophistication to implement these concepts. The ministry is working on them.