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The trouble with certificates in India

Regarding "India drops turbine certification," (Windpower Monthly, September 1999). The purpose of certification is to secure an assurance from a third party that the machine design and performance accords with the manufacturer's claims. Beyond that, there is no guarantee for the end user that his particular machine is up to the mark. In India, with many manufacturers spread over the country and quality consciousness in need of improvement, it would be difficult to keep track of validity of certification with which a company started its activities.

The very idea of certification of wind turbines can sometimes become the subject of lively discussion. The purpose of certification is to secure an assurance from a third party that the machine design and performance accords with the manufacturer's claims. But beyond that, there is no guarantee for the end user that his particular machine is up to the mark.

It is not as if one is buying a refrigerator and its performance can be generally verified by checking if one is able to get ice cubes in so many hours and minutes. Wind turbine manufacturers and wind farm developers have any number of reasonable and unreasonable arguments at their disposal to prove that what their machine is delivering is as expected in the specific site conditions. If a dispute arises, the certifying agency has no legal backlashes to face. To that extent, certification merely gives a notional satisfaction to the buyers. It can also be used as part of company sales hype.

Back here in India, with its many manufacturers spread over the country and quality consciousness in general in need of considerable improvement, it would be a Herculean task to keep track of validity of certification with which a company started its activities. The idea of getting rid of certification (Windpower Monthly, September 1999) has sort of provided a solution even though a trivial one.

On the other hand, a more difficult situation to handle is to see how to stimulate a market ridden with broken promises, while retaining a healthy environment for doing good business. One of the important aspects all of us would like to turn a Nelson's eye to is the failure of the field to live up to its promises. However much we try to explain what happened in Gujarat when the typhoon struck last year, the bad taste the incident has left lingers on. All those machines were certified.

Wind machines will have to face extreme operating conditions many times in their service life. On the other hand, most of the machines have been performing below par and careful financial engineering behind the projects has gone haywire because of this. I suppose that if we are serious about giving a fresh lease to wind energy in India, we should face up to our realities and give the right the push to right things instead of looking at annual capacity addition as an indicator of success.

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