Grid needs upgrading but India's wind states are coping

INDIA: As suppliers and developers works towards the Indian government's goal of achieving 60GW of wind capacity by 2022, the industry is now expected to exceed the target, with some suggesting it could reach 80GW as the 175GW renewables goal goes up to 227GW.

Grid access… Transmission upgrades are needed urgently (pic: Catherine Early/WPM)

Depending on which target is used, the market could be looking at annual installations of 8-12GW in the next few years.

This is likely to increase the deployment challenges, which Windpower Monthly has been looking at over the past few months.

(Read parts the first two parts of the series here and here)

This final part of the series looks at grid access and integration, plus prospects for repowering and offshore wind.  

Grid access has been a major challenge in India. The capacity to connect projects at central transmission substations is nearly exhausted in the two key wind-power states of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.

"Bay allocation is a challenge," confirmed Ramesh Kymal, CEO of Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE).

"Most of the auctions have gone to almost the same areas, and the available connectivity is limited," agreed Tulsi Tanti, chairman of turbine maker Suzlon.

"Building the projects in time may be a challenge. We are recommending the government goes for a two-tiered capacity bid, spread equally across the two states with developers bidding an average tariff."

For the first time since India introduced the auction system, the 2GW wind-power auction in July was undersubscribed due to uncertainty about transmission capacity.

Kannan Balaraman, director general of the National Institute of Wind Energy, said the government was aware of the constraints and was working on the necessary infrastructure to connect projects.

However, grid integration was not seen as a major challenge in terms of corridor capacity and grid balancing, according to Kymal.

"Tamil Nadu, which has the highest wind generation, could manage to connect and transfer its full generation. So although the national grid needs to be strengthened, right now I do not see any constraint."

Balaraman agreed. "The central transmission utility has enough corridor capacity to carry large wind and solar power from generation locations. Modelling suggests that balancing the planned 160GW renewable capacity [100GW solar and 60GW wind] would be manageable in the national grid and is not a constraint," he said.

Repowering and offshore wind

Repowering in India remains constrained by policy and regulatory barriers, although manufacturers would be like to do more in this area.

"Repowering is a big opportunity and is technically and commercially feasible," said Kymal. "We were the first to do repowering in Tamil Nadu. The main issue is the level of regulatory restrictions."

"The state of Tamil Nadu has announced very low tariffs that make repowering unviable for small projects," added Tanti. "The regulator has to play a larger role here."

Balaraman hinted that the government was seriously deliberating the issue and was working towards a solution.

Offshore wind was seen as an interesting option for India. Kymal said SGRE is already talking with big generators and investors about getting into offshore in India.

Balaraman said: "The intent is to have a 5GW offshore wind target, and we have already started consulting with relevant developers and manufacturers to set up the first project at the Gulf of Khambhat in Gujarat. The first tender could be up to 1GW.

"We are also in the process of procuring and deploying two additional Lidars in Gujarat and three in Tamil Nadu to validate offshore wind resource in identified areas."