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How flows the wind in India

Powering

| April 1, 2016, 4:32 PM IST

GE Step Ahead - How flows the wind in India

Sometimes it is the strong south-west summer monsoon, sailing on that cool, humid air that moves towards the land. Sometimes, it is also the north-east winter monsoon, nudging cool, dry wind towards the ocean.

Sometimes there are uniformly strong winds over the whole Indian Peninsula, sometimes over the Tamil Nadu coastline and sometimes, they get blown smartly by and around the industry that can spin them into power.

Nascent for long in the realm of alternative energy and fuels, wind has finally emerged quite strongly on the global and Indian stratosphere in the last few years.

The Wind power programme in India that took feet towards the end of the Sixth Plan, in 1983-84 set a new wave into motion, and soon enough the potential of wind as an energy source started being tapped with more vigor.

The Power in Wind Power:

Wind, the natural movement of air across the land or sea, triggered by uneven heating and cooling of the earth's surface or its rotation, has been a latent source of energy for centuries while mankind was besotted and busy with coal, fossils and electricity for long.

But slowly, industry and experts started recognizing its innate but hidden advantages. Wind Power comes with not only capital cost gains, less construction times, zero fuel costs (relative to other power sources) but also helps with low operational costs, ability to add capacity modularly, and environmental-friendly strengths. Today, technology allows generation of competitively priced grid-interactive wind power in a way that harnesses wind energy well, and is an advantage when one considers how the cost per kwh goes down over a period of time vis a vis rising costs for conventional power projects. Besides regulatory incentives around costs and subsidies, this form of power has been seen to entail fast payback periods, low gestation time windows, low manpower ratios and less marketing risks when compared to other sources

Technology, too, has abetted this edge and change. Wind turbines can range from stall regulated to pitch regulated that aligns with grid-interactive power. The industry is using various approaches like fixed rotor blades or adjustable rotor blades or lattice, steel tubular and concrete tubular towers as well as rotors, gearboxes and generators.  

The idea is to reasonably, timely and profitably convert kinetic energy available in wind to electrical energy. Usually the concept is simple. When wind turns the blades of a machine, these rotating blades in turn, move the shaft to which they are attached and these turning shafts power a pump or turn a generator, thus producing electricity. Depending on the size of blades or speed of the wind, the output can increase manifold.

As to India, the output and momentum of wind power has shown a positive growth. From an installed wind power base of some 1.6 GW in 2002 (according to MNRE); the wind power generation capacity has grown to over 25 GW in 2015. The good news is that the base is growing fast, largely driven by the government’s aim to have an installed wind power capacity of 60 GW by 2022.

Wind Over Matter

Wind power comes with several good dimensions that make it more viable and environmental friendly than other mediums. In fact, the pollution saving from a WEG with an average output of 4,00,0.00 kWh per year has been estimated like this: Sulphur - dioxide (SO2): 2 to 3.2 tonnes, Nitrogen - oxide (NO); 1.2 to 2.4 tonnes, Carbon - dioxide (CO2): 300 to 500 tonnes and Particulates: 150 to 280 kg.

Also, fossil fuels’ usability is not there all the time like that of wind. They have to be procured and made usable through time-consuming and environmentally-negative processes. Transportation, processing, emissions, over reliance on Oil etc are other sides of fossil power that tip the scale in favour of wind power.

Air Pockets

Wind power however, has been witnessing some constraints and barriers that de-accelerate its rise as a widely-used power generation mode. Here location strategy is strongly dependent on strong wind availability; the energy produced is unpredictable as well as intermittent thus forcing the need for a strong back-up supply from other sources.

This also makes wind power amenable for serving only part of a utility’s total energy needs. There is also a serious issue regarding utility power balancing, demand-supply alignment and load-following factors that wind power has to adequately catch up to. Damage of blades due to high winds and lighting, repair and maintenance of high-seated rotating parts and fluctuations of voltage and power factor are other concerns too.

What is required right now for winds to sail well in India is a host of factors – strong technology innovation, availability of latest advancements in turbines and components, opening up of new sites, adaptability and involvement of utilities and industry, focus on infrastructure capability along with capacity for manufacture, installation, operation and maintenance of wind electric generators; and of course, timely and positive policy support.

The time is right for wind power to gush ahead with a new force and this is when the industry and the market here have to remind themselves of these words from Edward Gibbon

“The winds and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators."

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