India’s wind energy sector is in the midst of preparing a roadmap to unlock the potential of offshore farms and to devise ways to integrate them with the onshore power grids

The potential of offshore wind farms is largely untapped in India (Photo by Nuon)

The potential of offshore wind farms is largely untapped in India (Photo by Nuon)

The rapid technological advancement in offshore wind energy and the decline in cost of installing and running offshore wind farms could power the next wave of adding renewable energy capacity in India. Gone are the times when onshore wind energy made all the news. Now, its counterpart, offshore, is not only making waves, it is also being hailed as one of the most efficient ways to power a nation.

Offshore wind power is becoming increasingly cost-effective with installations close to 14.5 GW at the end of 2016, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). India has the world’s fourth largest onshore wind market with a total installed capacity of over 32.6 GW. “Since the country does have an acute need for large-scale, clean and indigenous energy generation to fuel its rapidly growing economy, offshore wind power could play a very important role here due to the large wind resources available near centres of high-energy demand,” GWEC said.

A report, which looks at the potential that India holds in offshore wind and the challenges it is likely to confront, was released in October by the Facilitating Offshore Wind in India (FOWIND) consortium led by GWEC. The group is implementing the Facilitating Offshore Wind in India project.

Offshore wind energy is “a rapidly maturing technology ready to go global and we expect India to be one of the major beneficiaries,” Steve Sawyer, GWEC Secretary General, said in a webcast this week.

The report, titled Grid Integration Study for Offshore Wind Farm Development in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, addresses the critical issue of how to prepare state power systems to connect offshore wind projects in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. Led by DNV-GL, an international accredited registrar and classification society headquartered in Norway, the study is a significant step forward in preparing a roadmap for the offshore wind sector in India. The four-year project aims to put together a roadmap for developing a sustainable and commercially viable offshore wind industry in India.

The report assesses elements needed in the future design of offshore wind farms to ensure grid integration along with a preliminary evaluation of existing grid infrastructure across the coastal states of Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. This study forms the basis for upcoming offshore wind feasibility assessments being conducted by FOWIND, and gives a better understanding for companies and government institutions about what is required to develop a successful offshore wind industry in India. The FOWIND consortium aims to complete the preliminary roadmap for offshore wind development in India in 2018.

Backed by policy

Encouragingly, the government too appears to be determined in furthering the cause of offshore wind in the country. “The government of India has been actively pursuing offshore wind in the country,” an official at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) told indiaclimatedialogue.net. “As far as the policy is concerned, there is a wish and will to explore this potential.”

“More than a year ago, we came up with a policy for offshore wind in India and it primarily looked at three aspects. First, the kind of potential it has and how well it qualifies in this regard. Second, to undertake some technological studies whereby the National Institute for Wind Energy (NIWE) will explore the potential. The third component intended to look at whether we can come up with some kind of system which helps reduce the barriers for offshore systems.”

In its report on offshore wind profile measurement at Dhanushkodi in Tamil Nadu, the NIWE said its assessment showed there was a good possibility of achieving over 45% capacity utilisation factor for offshore wind plants with the existing onshore turbine technology. Capacity utilisation factor is the percentage of a power plant’s maximum potential that is actually achieved over a period of time. NIWE added that it installed a 100-metre mast at Dhanushkodi and monitored wind data. Studies concluded that there is a possibility to develop 1 GW offshore power each at Rameswaram and Kanyakumari, both in Tamil Nadu.

“Studies have revealed that when offshore wind becomes operational, the cost of wind will not be high initially and it will generate higher returns and the cost of electricity will be low compared to others, simply because the capacity utilisation factor in the offshore systems will be far better than its counterpart, the onshore wind and other existing systems,” the MNRE official said. “Also, officials of MNRE have met with Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) to specially utilise their offshore platforms, exploring whether any systems can be set up on their existing facilities.”

In yet another boost for offshore wind energy, leaders at the European Union (EU)-India summit in New Delhi said in a joint statement on October 6 that the EU and India have pledged to strengthen their bilateral cooperation on a range of issues, including development and deployment of offshore wind.

Challenges remain

Despite the positive developments, some daunting issues persist. Senior renewable energy consultant S.P. Gon Chaudhuri feels that the main problem with offshore wind is that the cost is high. “Since power has to be evacuated from 10 to 15 km and it has to be brought to the shore, as far as the Indian coast is concerned, the main windy zone is quite far and it’s not close to the bank and therefore, offshore is not viable,” Gon Chaudhuri told indiaclimatedialogue.net. “Those studies have not been done, and for us to have offshore like it is in the UK, we need to have details like the wind speed, the distance and the economic viability.”

Wind, he reasons, is already a successful commercial programme and nobody wants to provide funds for wind energy solely for research. In the last two or three years, solar power prices have come down further and now the latest wind unit price is around INR 2 (USD 0.03). However, the cost of around INR 2 to INR 3 from offshore wind is not possible.

Also, around 3-4 years ago, the price of solar was INR 7 per KWh and wind power was INR 5 KWh, so people were opting for wind. However, with prices of solar declining rapidly, wind power is costlier than solar right now in India.

“There are aspects which need to be looked into,” the MNRE official told indiaclimatedialogue.net. “For instance, what kind of approvals are required for setting up the plants, since we are still struggling with it. This entails getting a nod from the Defence Ministry, the Ministry for Ocean Development and the Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change. They are all on board for the purpose.”

Gon Chaudhuri says that defence, security, ownership, area where the offshore plant is being put up, the channel of the ship — all these are important issues that have not yet been addressed or resolved. “Currently, the major issue is whether it should go through a tendering process, and also, there is no firm estimate as to what will go into these systems. Yet another challenge is the kind of support that will be provided by the government and for the initial few systems which will come up in the domain,” the MNRE official said.

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