The Blog - Wind energy market analysis

Posted 22/06/2015

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Building Offshore Wind In Indian Waters

Guest post by Charles Yates, managing director of CmY Consultants.

The Indian government has plans to radically increase renewable energy generation in India and is actively seeking foreign help to do this.

The government has set a target of more than doubling the existing 21GW of wind generation to 45GW by 2020, and foreign investment is critical to funding the new renewable energy projects and supporting grid infrastructure, with an estimated value of $300bn.

As well as investment opportunities for developers and financial institutions, there are opportunities to follow clients into India and provide professional services such as due diligence, bid support and project management.

And the Government’s plan also involves kickstarting the development of offshore wind farms in Indian waters.

The Indian government sees offshore wind as part of a mixed-generation strategy, which will help to provide clean power independent of imported fuel such as coal; and to connect 300 million people that do not currently have electricity. Part of the appeal of moving offshore is that it can avoid the land issues that have plagued some onshore wind projects; and that it will generate power close to major demand centres.

Other attractions of offshore wind include higher load factors than onshore wind, and an opportunity to develop new technology and a local supply chain. However, there are major challenges for offshore wind, which include affordability and the availability of transmission to take the power to market.

This ambitious programme is an opportunity for those working in the sector in the European Union. For instance, the EU and UK are supporting actions to unlock India’s offshore sector, including funding resource mapping, policy guidance and capacity-building measures.

The Indian government and the European Union are collaborating through the Fowind (Facilitating Offshore Wind in India) project to provide technical and economic analysis of the potential for offshore.

As a result of this Government decision, it seems likely that the offshore programme will be accelerated with a pilot offshore wind project in the next few years. This pilot is likely to be in either Tamil Nadu or Gujarat which both have long coastlines, shallow water and relatively strong wind.  A UK consulting team is building on best practice to frame commercial and technical aspects of the pilot.

While the Indian government, supported by a number of Indian states, is the prime mover behind this initiative there is also interest from the private sector. In particular Suzlon, the largest turbine manufacturer in India, is keen to develop a 300MW project off the coast of Gujarat and to sell the power to the well-run local state power company.

There are significant challenges to be overcome. These include developing an appropriate regulatory structure; an accurate, comprehensive and integrated assessment of the wind resource, sea bed, wildlife, and appropriate ports; and other uses of the marine resource. Even so, this vital government initiative is being strongly promoted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

Modi is putting in place policies that should lead to significant developments in offshore wind in India. The country will gain from the rapid development of turbine technology in established markets, which is reducing the cost of energy from offshore wind. If offshore wind experts want to benefit from growth in this new market, they should get involved now.

Charles is a member of the UK team working with the Indian government to progress the pilot offshore wind project.

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