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POWER UTILITY | Karen Mesina, India
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Will India's repowering policy for wind power projects breathe life into the sector?

Old turbines with sub-500kW capacities in high potential sites will be refurbished.

When the Narendra Modi government revealed a new policy for the repowering of wind power projects, wind turbine supplier, Suzlon was among the first firms that started to pop the champagne. Repowering means that ageing wind turbines will be replaced with more powerful, more advanced and modern units to hike up generation figures at refurbished wind sites.

Most of India's wind turbines installed until 2000 have sub-500kW capacities and are located at sites with impressive wind energy potential. The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) estimates that over 3000MW capacity installation are from turbines of around 500kW or below. Suzlon is the custodian of ~30% wind assets of the 3000MW repowering potential identified by MNRE. “We have the existing infrastructure and the latest technology to repower the older fleet. Repowering enables utilising the same land parcel to generate double the energy by deploying next generation wind turbines which give a higher Plant Load Factor (PLF),” explains Tulsi Tanti, chairman and managing director, Suzlon Group.

Manoj Singh, renewable energy expert at India Power Corporation, adds that the repowering might boost investment in wind sectors. “This is especially so in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh where good wind sites are available but are not being utilised at full potential due to the installation of low capacity wind turbines,” he adds.

Fresh air for the sector

The policy was unveiled in hopes of giving India's wind energy sector some fresh air, given that the policy can potentially turn around a big chunk of the 27,000MW of existing installed wind generation capacity in India. “It also enables the early investors in wind energy to come forward to leverage this opportunity and contribute towards India's energy security,” Tanti says.

The approval on the repowering policy by the government is a step in the right direction. Tanti says that Suzlon is glad that the MNRE has directed the state nodal agencies to extend their support especially for infrastructure augmentation of pooling stations wherever required and land acquisition. “However, creating a facilitative framework for repowering is only the first step,” he warns. “With the initial implementation experience, we are confident other challenges will be addressed in the subsequent revisions of the policy.”

Hitting the target

FY16 was a historic year for the Indian renewable industry according to Tanti. Wind energy has surpassed all its previous records with ~3300MW installation. The previous highest installation was ~3196MW in 2011. India's wind energy sector has witnessed unprecedented acceleration last year, propelled by technology and conducive policy environment for renewables, by central and state governments.

The growth was way higher than the industry estimates of 30-40%. The 50% growth in installation vis-à-vis the previous year (~2311 MW in FY15) demonstrates the industry's preparedness to achieve 60GW wind by 2022, which is part of the Indian government's target of 175GW renewables by 2022.

“The implementation of the repowering policy will only serve as a catalyst to achieving these commitments. In our view, the industry will grow by 30% for the next 3-5 years. With improved technology, wind turbines delivering fossil fuel competitive PLF (eg: Suzlon S97 120 metre hybrid tower turbine delivered 35% PLF and latest turbine, S111 120 metre turbine expected to deliver 45% PLF), improved cost competitiveness of renewables and conducive policy environment, we are confident that all sources of renewable energy will continue to witness exponential growth,” Tanti says.
 

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