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Summary:

Due to a variety of factors, wind power is now competitive, and some areas cheaper, than coal power in India. Here’s 10 reasons why wind is on a roll in India:

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Anyone who’s experienced — or even read about — the widespread blackouts in cities across India, realizes how much power generation India has to add every year just to maintain what its growing, and rapidly developing, population and domestic industries need. But on the brighter side of all that electricity growth is that wind power is making up an increasing amount of the new power generation added in the country because wind power is now competitive with, and in some cases even cheaper than, coal in some places in India.

According to HSBC research, the bids for new coal projects in the Indian state Uttar Pradesh at the end of 2012 were in the range of 8 cents to 13 cents per kilowatt hour (4.5 to 7 rupees per kilowatt hour). The feed-in-tariff for wind in India (the price that’s fixed by regulation) is 6 cents to 11 cents per kilowatt hour (3.51 rupees to 5.92 rupees per kilowatt hour). That’s good news for clean power, though low feed-in-tariffs can cause other market problems in the long run.

WindTurbines_BarbedWire_SunHere’s 10 reasons how wind has managed to inch down the cost curve, while coal has become more of a problem in India.

1). India’s domestic coal industry’s got problems: India has the fifth largest domestic supply of coal in the world, but India’s own coal sector is rife with corruption, weak policies, and poor management. Essentially 80 percent of domestic coal production is managed by the government-controlled Coal India, which is hampered by problems. Since the domestic coal market has become so constrained, international imports of coal have been increasing significantly and coal imports are considerably more expensive than coal from Indian domestic sources. India still relies on coal for the bulk of its electricity, but coal is becoming more expensive.

2). Coal power uses a lot of water, too: India is also a water-constrained country, and coal power generation uses a lot of water — the vast majority of water that goes for industrial sources in India goes to thermal power generation. Some coal plants have been closed down due temporarily due to water shortages, and some of the big blackouts in India have been found to come from water shortages at coal plants. Water usage is also expected to grow in India, so power generation technologies that use less water could have an advantage.

What can coal teach us about the cloud?

3). Aggressive feed-in tariffs: Clearly India’s state-led feed-in tariffs for wind projects are giving considerable help to wind power generation projects. The rates for feed-in-tariffs are reviewed on a five year basis, and are supposed to be reviewed in some key states next year. The idea is to decrease the tariff rate slowly as wind power becomes more competitive on its own.

4). Low interest rates for wind projects: The Indian government has committed to help provide low interest debt financing for wind installations for the next five years. Low interest financing can make it easier for project developers to raise money to cover the cost of the construction of the project.

5). Weak natural gas resources: While the U.S. is experiencing a natural gas boom from cheap shale resources, India actually has a very small amount of natural gas domestic resources.

Altamont wind6). Nuclear power has faced obstacles: Public pressure post-Fukushima, and the Nuclear Liability Act, have meant construction on some nuclear plants has been on hold in states in India.

7). India needs a lot of power, from anywhere: With problems with domestic coal, a lack of natural gas reserves, and a push back on nuclear power, wind power offers one of the best options for India to add electricity. There’s a peak deficit of 12 GW of electricity right now in the country, according to HSBC. India wants to add 100 GW of power generation over the next five years, and that will be made up by mostly coal and clean power.

8). Wind power as a tech is getting cheaper: The creation of large publicly-traded wind turbine makers, and project developers, have led to wind power projects becoming more streamlined and cheaper and the wind industry is now at an economy of scale that has reduced costs. Wind power technology is one of the cheapest clean power options out there (not including hydro). Large wind tech companies in India include Suzlon, Wind World India, Regen, and Gamesa. GE, one of the largest wind turbine makers in the world, has also been making a significant play for India’s wind industry.

9). Top down wind targets: The Indian government has been quick to establish installation targets for both solar and wind, though these tend to be more aspirational than actual targets meant to be hit on time. The Indian government wants to have 15 GW of wind power installed in India over its next five-year plan from the Spring of 2013 to the Spring of 2017. The government wants 20 percent of its electricity to come from clean power by 2020. The country says it has a potential for 50 GW of wind power, though the wind industry thinks the country’s capacity is bigger than that.

10). Climate change plans: India, like many countries across the world, already seems to be experiencing an increase in extreme weather, particularly in some of the countries’ poorer regions. While not everyone is impressed by India’s climate change commitments, clean power is playing a factor in those plans.

Updated at 2:10 BST, to reflect that the idea of the Indian clean power feed in tariffs is to decrease the tariff rate slowly as wind power becomes more competitive on its own.

  1. Does nobody consider birds and bats an important part of the ecosystem? How many millions of birds must die to satisfy the enviro-blood lust?

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    1. As far as I know, the bird-killing argument against wind power has been debunked. The number of birds killed by wind turbines in the U.S. is a small fraction of the number killed by cats, power lines, and windows. Maybe you’re just trolling…

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      1. Alexandr Shevtsov Monday, July 15, 2013

        100% it’s troll.

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  2. We can always just use more pesticides instead letting birds and bats take care of the insects…

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    1. Forest fires from global warming kill way more, Texas lost half a billion trees in the ongoing drought there

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  3. HEADLINE:
    Federal officials investigate eagle deaths at DWP wind farm.
    Pine Tree facility in the Tehachapi Mountains faces scrutiny over the deaths of at least six golden eagles, which are protected under federal law. Prosecution would be a major blow to the booming industry.
    August 03, 2011| By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times:
    “Nationwide, about 440,000 birds are killed at wind farms each year, according to the Wildlife Service.” -LA Times

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    1. Coal pollution kills 2 million humans prematurely every year, save your bird tears!

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  4. More than animals/birds, very few realize this is actully killing people!

    The Govt. of India forcibly acquires the land from (doesn’t take the consent of) farmers and poor villagers who have relied on agriculture for centuries and gives them cash – something that villagers don’t know how to utilize properly, let alone invest (these are tribals and villagers who have lived in peace with nature and used the produce to feed their families, and who didn’t care much about “modern” life or cash). The cash disappears soon and they become landless — destroys families and large communities like nothing before. Then the govt. gives this land to capitalistic corporations to setup power plants.
    And, guess who uses most (95%) of the power that is generated? It’s the likes of Bill Gates in India — the corporations that make Ambanis, Tatas, …. filthily rich and whose homes consume upwards of 100-500 times the power used by poor homes. The often-repeated “businesses will bring jobs” is as hollow as someone who cannot realize that businesses are setup to make profits (not jobs) for its owners (usually handful), and who constantly replace workers for machines wherever financially beneficial.

    Is this the kind of “development” India should pursue when 80% of the people of the country first want clean drinking water, food on the table and healthcare to survive?

    Google – kalpavalli to read one example.

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  5. Yeah, it is true that the wind energy is free and with modern technology it can be captured efficiently. In addition, currently wind power is meeting with grid parity in India. As mentioned in the article, the cost of wind power is almost equal with the power from grid. However, I strongly believe that the growing wind installation in India, mostly in the remote areas, should benefit the local people. In addition to this, I want bring one thing in your notice that the Accelerated Depreciation (AD) benefits for wind project developers has ended from April 12. Therefore, investment in this sector has dramatically reduced in last one year. The same benefits have been given to solar projects.
    Even, there are many wind assets holding companies in India are selling their wind farms. I may be due to the absence of AD benefits. Read more here http://greencleanguide.com/2013/07/13/to-reduce-debt-jain-irrigation-to-sell-wind-power-business/
    You can read more on -Why is the Indian Power Sector Facing a Supply-Demand Gap? http://greencleanguide.com/2013/06/07/why-indian-power-sector-is-facing-supply-demand-gap/

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  6. Entirely agree with you on the relevance of wind energy for power generation.However ,onshore sites suitable for wind farms are getting scarce,Roads ,bridges and infrastructure limit the size of turbines that can be deployed in India.
    Looking ahead ,the appropriate thing to do is to go offshore, not to the shallow waters but into the deep where much taller towers to support the wind turbines can be put up,to make use of the higher wind velocities at heights of 100 metres or more, on floating platforms semi-submersible or tension legs,Deep waters further away from shore even beyond 12 nautical miles from the shore ,where wind has not been slowed down by surface features and flows steadily,out of the way of shipping,or fishing trawlers,
    Floating wind farms ,where each unit can be assembled in harbours and towed to selected locations .Anchoring and mooring ,operations and maintenance skills ,common with offshore oil and gas exploration and production is abundant in in India,
    You will agree with me that floating wind farms will do much more for India ,especially when larger 6 MW or bigger turbines can be used.They will help decarbonise India faster and make electric ligthing in numerous remote coastal villages for childern to study and do their home work.
    Need is to map the wind resource in deeper waters around the coastline of india, at heights greater than 100 metres,in regions closer to power deficient coastlal states.Focus on design of floating foundations and towers ,giving up the over designed offshore deep sea drilling platforms practices,use composites and longer lasting materials concrete or similar materials for foundation or platforms, avoid expensive handling vessels necessary for erection or installation of momopile foundation used in shallow water offshore wind farms in European waters.
    Look forward to your views as a naval architect,naval officer,having run shipyards in India and well wishetr of the martime fraternity which has done much against pollution.
    R K WHIG

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