Offshore wind sector has some way to go
Last week, the Union Cabinet approved the national offshore wind energy policy. It is the first policy to govern the country’s budding offshore wind industry.
India has enormous ptential for offshore wind energy, but it remains unexploited. The Centre’s approval has paved the way for harnessing untapped wind energy from India’s 7600-km coastline. With this move, the government aims to replicate the success of onshore wind power development in the offshore sector. It will also help the government meet its wind energy target of 60 GW by 2022.
The National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) has been authorised as the nodal agency for allocation of offshore wind energy blocks, coordination with related ministries and agencies and other allied functions. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has been authorised to be the nodal ministry to use offshore areas within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which is 200 nautical miles from the coast.
India ranks fifth in the world in terms of installed wind power capacity. Wind energy now constitutes around 66 percent of India’s total renewable energy capacity. However, the rate of capacity addition of onshore wind has fallen in the past couple of years due to policy instability and state-specific land acquisition issues. This is where offshore wind will have a role to play.
Challenges and advantages
Potential challenges of offshore wind include grid integration, resource characterisation and operation and maintenance of transmission infrastructure. Offshore technology is far more expensive than onshore wind, which raises the cost of generation.
However, offshore technology also has distinct advantages such as higher wind speed and large wind resource. The capacity utilisation factor (CUF) for high-range offshore wind farms is higher than that of onshore technology. Hence, offshore wind power allows longer hours of operation. Additionally, it has the potential to meet the power demand of load centres on or near the coast such as Chennai and Vadodara.
According to the offshore policy report, a preliminary assessment suggests that projects off the coastlines of Rameshwaram and Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu have a potential of 1 GW each. The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) is already developing a roadmap for offshore wind in India, with a particular focus on Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. Suzlon’s assessment shows more than 1 GW of offshore wind energy potential along Gujarat’s 1600-km coastline.
Lessons from European projects
For the Indian offshore wind sector to succeed, it is critical that necessary conditions are created for long-term growth and reduce investment risks. With India joining the league of offshore wind power users, it now can examine the successes and failures of European projects carefully. This will help India avoid costly mistakes.
India must ensure there is a clear, time-bound and quantitative target for offshore wind development and a roadmap to achieve it. The country must also maintain industry confidence by clearly establishing and articulating the objectives of the energy policy. Strong initial public investment and public-private partnerships are also required.
Long way to go
Though the Centre has cleared the policy, it will take a minimum of three to five years for a pilot project to come up. Devansh Jain, director of energy company Inox Wind, says, “Considering the legal procedures, technology availability and fund allocation, offshore wind power has a long way to go to be price-competitive with the onshore sector.”
Since the government is committed to long-term infrastructure investments and has set ambitious targets for solar and wind power, this move will help clear many policy-related and inter-ministerial issues.
Time to replicate past success
In the early 1990s, MNRE had taken up onshore demonstration projects in various states. A total of 71 megawatts (MW) of demonstration projects in seven states had attracted interest. Since then, India has achieved significant success in the onshore wind power development, with over 23 gigawatts (GW) of wind energy capacity already installed and generating power. Worldwide, offshore wind power projects with total capacity of 7.5 GW have been installed. UK is leading with installations of 4.2 GW.
Going by the success of onshore wind energy development, the government expects a similar result in offshore wind energy development too.
(Sridhar is a senior research associate for Renewable Energy at the Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi. The views expressed are personal. Additional inputs from Down to Earth)