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BLADE MANUFACTURERS OUT OF PATIENCE, More expensive in India

India's four major manufacturers of rotor blades for wind turbines are rapidly running out of patience. For years the wind industry was told by the Indian government that continued imports of blades would not be tolerated. Production of them should be set up in India, it was stressed time and time again. But no sooner had a handful of companies painstakingly set up joint venture manufacturing, than they discovered that import duty on raw materials -- such as resin and glass fibre -- made their Indian manufactured blades more expensive than those imported from source.

"We continue to pay almost 80% duty on glass fibre and resin. This is ridiculous. Where is the initiative to manufacture locally when imported blades can be bought for the same price," asks a frustrated Yogesh Mehra of Enercon. The German wind company manufactures blades from a factory at Dama, producing one a day. By the middle of the year, blades made in India are scheduled for regular export for use in Germany.

Appeal to ministry

In an attempt to gain government understanding of their plight, India's blade manufacturers have taken their case to the finance ministry. From here they were referred to the Ministry for Non Conventional Energy Source (MNES). But with Indian politics now bound up in the forthcoming elections, the frustrations of a group of small companies are not likely to attract much attention.

LM Glasfiber of Denmark, the largest producer of blades for wind turbines in the world, inaugurated its factory a year ago. "I have 45 mouths to feed. How long is this going to go on?" asks the company's Neelabh Bhattacharya. LM's Danish sales director, Troels Thomsen comments: "We aimed to set up a facility which could mirror production at our factory in Denmark. Today, with labour 20% cheaper, but production costs 80% higher, it is becoming a no-win situation. We can no longer justify further investment."

Rahul Amin of Jyoti Ltd, who has signed a memorandum of understanding with Polymarin of the Netherlands to manufacture rotor blades, is playing a waiting game. Having acquired five acres of land in the Kheda district of Gujarat for his blade factory, he explains: "We do not plan to make any investments in the mould tools until we get clearance from the government to import duty-free raw materials. At this rate, India will never achieve the self-sufficiency they have been talking about."

For TTG Husumer of Madras, which has links to German wind turbine manufacturer Husumer Schiffswerft, the problem is not so critical. Though the problem of the cost of raw material remains, the company has already produced 80 blades and intends to continue their manufacture. The blades are made exclusively for its own machines being erected in India, making production viable.

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