Wind firms demand better grid access

INDIA: Wind-energy producers in India are demanding grid improvements and specific transmission corridors to enable more renewable electricity to be accepted on to the grid.

With the country on track to add a record 3GW in wind capacity this year, the issue is becoming urgent.

At a renewable-energy conference in New Delhi last month, wind-power producers, equipment manufacturers, consultants and financiers agreed that inadequate intake of wind power onto the grid is a grave problem that is likely to get worse as more and more capacity is ready to come online.

Pramod Deo, head of the Central Electricity Regulatory Authority, said that wind will have a 50-60GW slice of the 90GW renewable-energy capacity needed to meet the country's target of generating 15% of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Jami Hossain, co-founder of developer and consultancy Windforce, one of India's oldest wind-power producers, said that wind turbines operate at 25% capacity during peak season and called for specific transmission corridors to be dedicated to wind and other renewables. "These may be connected to the national grid. And new scheduling is required as part of overall grid management," he said.

DV Giri, chairman of the Chennai-based Indian Wind Turbines Manufacturers' Association, said dedicated corridors may meet with resistance from producers of conventional electricity, but underscored the need for better wind forecasting to enable scheduling, as well as the need to allow for extra spinning reserves.

Spinning reserve is plant that can be made available to a transmission system within a few minutes and can operate continuously for several hours once brought in.

In April this year - the beginning of the peak production season - most wind farms in the leading wind-power state of Tamil Nadu faced daily load-shedding of up to 12 hours because the grid could not take in the power surge. "What's happening in Tamil Nadu will happen all over the country if the grid is not improved," said Chintan Shah, vice-president at Suzlon, India's leading wind turbine manufacturer.

"For this we need a long-term, integrated energy policy," Shah said. A better understanding of wind energy and its significance in the energy mix must be created at the utility level, he added.

New rules

Deo said India's new electricity grid code, which came into force last year, mandates that planning must factor in renewable-capacity additions. Enabling more renewable energy to be accepted on to the grid is a priority for the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17), he added.

The Forum of Regulators, which oversees India's electricity sector, is investigating how to integrate large amounts of variable renewable power from various sources into the grid, according to Deo. The Five Year Plan is due to come into force next April.

Deo added that there is a proposal to allow wind projects of more than 50MW to connect directly to the national grid. "We are also working on promoting peaking power plants and spinning reserves, as well as better forecasting and scheduling," he told delegates.

Renewable-energy producers have been demanding that the Clean Energy Fund be used to expand and modernise the grid. The Fund was created from a INR 50 ($1.10) a tonne tax on all domestically produced and imported coal and is already estimated to have raised more than INR 40 billion ($92 million).

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