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24. April 2011

Wind turbine makers face challenge of balancing costs and higher output

According to Mr Ramesh Kymal MD of Gamesa India, bigger is not always better for wind energy generator manufacturers who should focus on productivity and low cost per kWh. With an addition of 2,300 MW of wind energy generation in 2010-11 taking the total capacity to about 13,000 MW India last year came third globally in new capacity additions and continues among the top five in installed capacity.

According to Mr Kymal, investment per kWh ranges around INR 26-27 with wind energy generators priced around INR 5.5 crore a MW at the lowest end. The target is about INR 23 to 24 a kWh. Technology will have to address the challenge of balancing costs with higher output for which manufacturers need to adapt machines to local conditions such as low wind speeds and high temperatures.

Mr Kymal said that under Indian conditions the defining capacity is larger rotor diameter with wind speeds ranging around 6.5-7.5 meters a second and high temperatures resulting in low air density. A 2 MW machine in Europe may come with 84-87 m blades but in India such a machine will have 95-97 m blades. Mr Kymal said that manufacture of large components such as towers and blades need to be indigenized to bring down transportation and logistics costs which now account for about 4%-6% of the cost and import duties add 12%-15%. Smaller components particularly forgings and castings can be imported from China, Vietnam or Korea.

On the reasons for wind energy investment cost stagnating around INR 6 crore a MW despite global manufacturers setting up operations in India Mr Kymal said that it was due to the additional costs being incurred as a part of turnkey projects which includes cost of land and evacuation infrastructure.

The electricity utilities no longer provide the support infrastructure but expect the wind energy generating companies invest in sub-stations and transmission lines. For instance the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board earlier charged about INR 0.25 million a MW for the facility but now investors have to set these up themselves at a cost of about INR 6-7 million.

Mr Klaus Rave chairman of Global Wind Energy Council said India needs to combine its expertise in information technology with engineering to develop smart grids to address grid infrastructure constraints. The growth markets had shifted from the West to Asia and the South-East and technology has to diversify and adapt to local conditions and economies.

Mr T Shivaraman director of Leitner Shriram Manufacturing Ltd said that efficient delivery of kWh is the prime need. As IPPs enter the market wind energy generator manufacturers are dealing with customers looking at wind as a standalone business. Projects will be larger and this will call for strong grid infrastructure in wind zone.

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