Wind energy development and policy in India

Windmills in Karnataka, India. Picture credit: India Water Portal
Windmills in Karnataka, India. Picture credit: India Water Portal

Wind energy is a renewable, inexhaustible, non-polluting and popular alternative source of clean energy. India stands fourth in the world in wind energy conversion and utilization, with an installed capacity of about 34,605?MW as of September 2018. Countries such as Uruguay, Germany and United Kingdom are meeting as much as 19.5%, 12% and 11% respectively of their electricity demand through wind power. China is a leading nation in wind power installed capacity and has grown rapidly, from 300?MW in 2000 to 188,232?MW in 2018. Today China accounts for 35% of the world's total wind power capacity.

A recent paper by Chaurasiya et al presents the status and development of wind energy in India. It discusses the challenges and opportunities in the development of wind energy in the country and presents approaches to increase and expand the utilization of wind resources. 

As a source of power, the potential of wind energy is huge and there has been a rapid increase in cumulative global capacity, reaching 539?GW?at the end of 2017 and representing 10.7% of cumulative market growth. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India and several state governments have been at the forefront in providing the necessary policy support and a facilitative regulatory system for the fast and orderly growth of the sector. The MNRE undertook various initiatives to promote cooperation with other countries and funding authorities in the field of renewable energy. The MNRE along with the National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) has announced Indian’s Offshore Wind Policy and also started planning to encourage a  demonstration project.

Wind power potential in India

The potential for wind energy in India is enormous. It is a viable option to mitigate the challenges of meeting electricity demands for a burgeoning population, as well as those arising from environmental pollution, greenhouse gas emission and depleting fossil fuels. India has the second largest wind market in Asia after China, and is fourth globally in terms of installed wind power capacity, after the USA and Germany.

Wind energy contributes a major chunk of India’s 64.09% of total renewable energy capacity. The government also developed a policy framework for the first offshore wind development project in India in 2015.

The National Institute of Wind Energy in Chennai serves as a research focal point for the improvement and development of the entire spectrum of the wind energy sector in India. NIWE also coordinates wind energy assessment programmes, and initially estimated 49?GW of wind potential at 50?m hub-height. On further inspection, it was found that wind potential grows as much as 102?GW at 80?m hub-height, and the estimated wind potential at 100?m hub-height is 302?GW assuming actual land availability. 

More than 95% of India’s wind potential is concentrated in five states in the south and the west – Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Karnataka. This made it possible to identify suitable areas for harnessing wind power for electricity generation.  The country is keen to develop offshore wind power but there are several challenges, such as a high capital cost. The data required to calculate wind potential of suitable sites and bathymetric data is also not available.

Recently, MNRE had undertaken various policy initiatives in the wind energy sector like introduction of bidding in the wind energy sector, re-powering policy, draft wind-solar hybrid policy, new guidelines for development of wind power project etc.

Key challenges in the development of wind energy in India

  • The lack of adequate evacuation and transmission infrastructure is one of the biggest barriers in harnessing the wind energy potential. For instance, attractive potential wind sites in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and coastal Tamil Nadu remain less tapped because of inadequate grid evacuation capacity and transmission infrastructure.
  • The industry is still recovering from the recent experience of withdrawal of both Accelerated Depreciation and Grid Based Incentive scheme. At the state level too, there have been frequent changes in policies on open access, cross subsidy surcharges, banking and wheeling, group captive, etc. These changes are often made with utter disregard for projects that have been built and invested in, based on certain assumptions of policy. Such changes can make businesses completely unviable.
  • A number of state nodal agencies are not able to establish and maintain a technical library, a data bank, or an information centre to collect and correlate information regarding wind energy potential.
  • Availability of land is a challenge for wind power generation in India. The conversion of land (if available) from agricultural to non-agricultural and receiving clearance (for protected areas) from authorities is time-consuming and difficult. There is a need to analyse India’s land use and land cover data to identify areas most suitable for wind farm development.
  • In the existing regulatory framework, resource-rich states are expected to take higher wind purchase obligation and buy power at a preferential tariff. That is why states like Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan are increasingly finding it difficult to absorb higher quantum of wind power during the windier seasons and low demand period. This is partly due to outdated and often inadequate infrastructure and in part due to a lack of penalization for non-compliance with forecasting and scheduling requirements. In this regard, linking of the Southern Grid with the National Grid, freely allowing open access and third party sale within and outside the state/region as well as improving forecasting tools will be critical for further harnessing the potential of wind power in the country.
  • Supply chain issues also play a significant role in hampering the development of the wind energy sector in India. Wind power developers have to stay focused on identifying suppliers that can provide special equipment and quality material on time.

In this study, both the actual and the provisional scenario for wind energy in India has been discussed. It is quite clear from the study that the condition of wind systems is satisfactory in India, but additional attention for better growth is required. To allow the widespread application of emerging technology such as remote sensing techniques for resource assessment in complex, hilly terrain and in offshore regions, there is a need for further R&D. Accurate and consistent measurement in lieu with better policy will encourage investments in the development of the offshore wind energy sector in India. The country is set to reach “Grid Parity” in wind energy in 2022. For further development, it is essential to focus on a specific technological system, accurate measurement, domestic manufacturing and logistics which requires better policy and more focus from the government.

Access the study here