It seems the India has finally caught the offgrid wind energy fever. C-WET – the leading wind energy R&D institute in the country has started putting together plans to undertake an offshore wind energy feasibility study in Dhanushkodi near Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu. It should come as no surprise that the state which has the highest wind energy installed capacity – about 42% of the total installed capacity in the country has taken the first step in this direction.
The move is likely to have been inspired by the fact that most of the available (onshore) high wind density areas in the state have already been exploited. The state is estimated to have an onshore wind energy generation potential of about 6000 MW while the installed capacity is much higher and stands at 6548 MW (as of Oct.2011). It is plausible that project developers are finding it increasingly difficult to acquire suitable land for developing wind farms considering the fact that most of the high wind power density sites (i.e. sites which are most likely to generate high revenues) have already been occupied. The fact that the southern peninsular region (primarily southern half of costal Tamil Nadu) is estimated to have the highest offshore wind energy potential in the country further bolsters the case.
Big name players such as Suzlon, Vestas and Gamesa who have a significant presence in the country are likely to benefit from this exercise. These companies have the upper hand due to the fact that they are already big players in the international offshore wind energy market. Suzlon, more than anyone else should aim to capitalize on this market as they have taken a significant beating over the past year – from having lost a lot of market share in India to getting sued by US based Trinity Structural Towers Inc for breach of contract.
It is also possible that other companies such as ABB (who too has an Indian presence) could be a beneficiary by providing the required evacuation infrastructure for the electricity generated. For instance, ABB recently signed a $1 billion deal to establish a HVDC evacuation infrastructure that evacuates electricity from the North Sea wind farms to German power grid. This system is supposed to be more efficient than AC based evacuation and is most suitable for short distance power evacuation (which in this case would be from a few meters offshore to the land).
Cost of offshore wind has been the main hinderance to its large scale uptake. Wind farm facilities, such as wind turbines, foundations and electric cables, make up 79 percent of the total wind farm construction costs. Installation constitutes 15 percent of total costs. The domestic content requirements for the onshore wind energy sector which are likely to come into effect in the country as part of the next five year plan could extend to the offshore wind energy sector too. This could help drive down the offshore wind energy costs by ensuring most of the manufacturing and implmentation is done indigeneously. China for instance reduced offshore installation costs in the country by 60% compared to European levels by using technology developed within the country.
Undertakings such as this is bound to take India higher up the global wind energy rankings in the years to come.