Heading for eight thousand megawatt

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With installed wind power capacity now at 816 MW in India, over 1.7 billion kilowatt hours of electricity from this abundant renewable resource have been fed into the country's electricity grid. "The technology has generally performed up to expectations. The wind resource assessment programme continues to reveal promising sites," says Ajit Kumar Gupta, the head of the power division at the Ministry of Non Conventional Energy Sources (MNES).

In total his division has installed some 50 MW of demonstration wind projects at 23 locations in eight states and a further 4 MW of demonstration projects are under way. According to Gupta, annual capacity factors have been reached of up to 30% along with annual generation of 2-2.5 million kWh per MW installed.

Gupta points out that the MNES demonstration programme has helped create awareness of the new technology, established technical and economic viability and provided operating experience for industry and utilities. "With basic capability developed, indigenous expertise on handling, storage, local erection, commissioning, testing, maintainance and repair, has replaced the need for foreign expertise," he says.

India's largest wind plant so far have been installed in the Muppandal-Perungady area near Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu where some 300 MW is now operating, the largest single concentration of wind farm capacity at a single location in India. According to Gupta, wind industry turnover exceeded $450 million during fiscal year 1995-96.

Under the New Strategy and Action Plan of 1993, MNES created a favourable policy environment for commercialisation of wind energy, says Gupta, allowing for the goal posts for the 8th Plan period, 1992-1997, to be readjusted. The aim now is for renewable energy to supply 2000 MW of power by the middle of this year. "Projections indicate that by the end of the decade it would be cost effective to generate and supply renewable energy. Besides grid supply augmentation, renewables offer possibilities of distributed generation on or near the point of use. This could reduce peaking loads and save on costly upgrading of distribution networks. Our original goal of 500 MW by 1997 has not only been achieved, but far exceeded," says Gupta.

The role of the government is now that of a "mission leader," continues Gupta, and it should act as a facilitator, focusing on policy and planning, and supporting resource assessment, R&D, training and information dissemination. "In order to take a long term view, the government is formulating a comprehensive renewable policy that will accelerate commercialisation and create an effective support infrastructure and delivery mechanism," he adds.

With the present legislation governing the electricity sector now considered inadequate for the rapid development of renewables, new laws to promote renewables are in the works. According to Gupta, India has gained sufficient experience in technological and operational fields and is on the threshold of "take-off" in wind power. "It offers a viable option in the energy supply mix, particularly in the context of the present constraints on conventional sources. It also offers an attractive investment option to the private sector in view of our policies."

Setting broad goals would help sustain growth, says Gupta. The resource, technology and commercialisation prospects would need to be evaluated to ensure capacity additions were technically and economically viable." A goal of 2000 MW of wind by the year 2000 seems reasonable given the present trends. If we set a goal of another 6000 MW for the year 2010, the total wind capacity then of 8000 MW would amount to a 3.5% share in the total anticipated installed capacity of India." The time has come, he says for a major planning and policy thrust for harnessing wind energy aimed at the realisation of these goals.

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