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India

India

SEVERAL HUNDRED TURBINES STOCKPILED, FINANCIAL SQUEEZE DELAYS EXPECTED ORDERS

India's economic hiccup is having its effect on wind turbine orders -- some 500-600 unsold machines are currently stockpiled in the country. Customers are biding their time until after the general election. Futhermore, because of the tax regime there is little financial incentive for investment in wind at this time of year. Larger wind companies are regarding the slow down as a temporary lull, but smaller competitors are finding it harder going. Prospects are expected to improve once the financial year ends in March.

India's current economic hiccup is having its effect on wind turbine orders -- some 500-600 unsold machines are currently stockpiled in the country. After coming in thick and furious towards the end of last year, customers are now biding their time until after the forthcoming general election. Furthermore, there is little financial incentive for investment in wind at the moment. Tax breaks for wind turbines are more lucrative for projects built at the beginning of an Indian financial year, which runs from April to April.

Despite the current wind turbine glut, larger wind companies are regarding the current slow down as no more than a temporary lull. Smaller competitors, however, are finding it harder going. RRB Vestas, a big name on the Indian wind scene, admits it is feeling the crunch. "There isn't much action at the moment, but even so we are looking at bigger projects," says a spokesman. Meantime, newcomers such as Controls and Jacobs Wind Energy Ltd, a joint venture with German manufacturer Jacobs Energie, are a little less bullish.

Controls and Jacobs expects its Delhi factory to "be operational in the next six months," while land and has been bought in Tamil Nadu for future wind development. Sunil Narang, the firm's deputy general manager, is concerned about the rising cost of land which, he says, makes the company a "trifle disadvantaged." Nonetheless, the firm has applied for a loan from the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) for installation of 2 MW of wind power.

Meanwhile, Narang is busy planning the supply of various components to the wind business. "We have a distinct advantage because of our links with a number of the world's major companies in the right fields," he says. Among these are Telemecanique of France (overload relays), Terasaki of Japan (three-pole air circuit breakers) and a joint venture with AVK-SEG for the manufacture of generators and microprocessor based protective relays. "Soon we are planning to manufacture our own induction generators and control panels, which we will supply to the industry," he adds.

State-owned Bharati Heavy Electrical Ltd (BHEL), which produces its own make of wind turbine, is candid about the current lull. Deputy general manager Mr Y P Sabarwal, says many expected orders have been postponed. "We have fallen short by 25%," he comments. The company had installed 58 MW by September last year.

Subhash Projects and Marketing, gearing up to be one of India's major wind power developers, is playing it cool. An optimistic chairman, Anil Sethi, says this is the time for sorting the men from the boys. He also feels that currency fluctuations will eventually redress the current imbalance in India's finances. His company is continuing with its plans to commission 10 MW in March, made up of 550 kW turbines from Dutch NedWind, 230 kW units from German Enercon and 225 kW turbines from Danish Vestas. Subhash, he says, is "moving steadily" ahead. Does he expect to buy wind turbines cheaper considering the size of current stockpiles? "Perhaps," he shrugs.

While confirming that the market is sluggish, NEPC Micon says it is so well consolidated that it will ride out the current financial squeeze. It is expecting to install nearly 175 MW by the end of March -- 220, 225 kW turbines and 80, 400 kW units. The company, which recently received the ISO 9002 stamp of quality approval for its production line, says it has reached the 350 MW mark.

Managing director of the Indian division of German Enercon, Yogesh Mehra, has plans to commission 50, 230 kW machines, also by March. Mehra agrees the industry is feeling the current financial crunch, but says Enercon's orders for the first three months of the year are safely home. The company has also started manufacturing blades at its factory in Diu. With 60 blades ready, Mehra expects to manufacture 300 blades annually. "Manufacture of blades will be a continuous process. If we find the market in India is stagnating, we will export them to Germany," he says.

Whether the Indian wind boom picks up again later this year remains to be seen. "We'll have to wait and see the state of order books after March -- the end of India's financial year," comments one seasoned observer.

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