First turbine exports from India -- Suzlon takes firm hold

The first wind turbines to be exported from India for a project overseas are on their way to the US. Suzlon Energy is supplying ten turbines for a 12.5 MW wind farm being developed by Cannonball Wind Power in North Dakota, all to arrive by this month.

Suzlon is the largest wind turbine manufacturer in Asia. It has 50% of the Indian wind market, with more than 300 MW installed

Over 70 turbines from its Mega Power series of 1 MW and 1.25 MW machines have been commissioned to date and another 50 are to be installed by the close of the current fiscal year at the end of March.

Uncertainty over local policies means plans for further development in India are on hold, but Suzlon hopes to install 300 MW in Maharashtra "once the state announces favourable policies," says the company's Tulsi Tanti. "We are hopeful that soon new policies conducive to the growth of the sector will be announced. Ideally the government should continue with the accelerated depreciation benefits along with performance linked tax benefits for the investors, and do away with wheeling charges by the state owned utilities." A firm long term market framework is essential he says, along with 20 year power purchase agreements and security that payment for electricity by state electricity boards happens on time.

In China and America

Meanwhile, development work on a Suzlon 2 MW prototype is underway along with overseas expansion plans. It sees the US as a key market and has established offices covering Texas, the Midwest and California. According to Ravi Vora, who heads the company's US operation, Suzlon "expects to become a fully integrated North American wind power company, including engineering and manufacturing of proprietary wind turbines in the US."

Other countries are also being targeted. By the end of the year it expects to sign a joint venture agreement with China to supply turbines and establish a manufacturing base in the country. At the same time, talks to identify developers in New Zealand and Australia as potential partners are at an advanced stage, the company says. It also hopes to find "the right partner to start working with on a long term basis" in Sri Lanka.

While turbine production costs in India are competitive, transport costs are higher than in Europe, pushing up export expenses, says Tanti. The government should form a conducive export policy as it did a few years ago for the IT sector, he suggests. "India's competitive edge on production cost means we are at the take-off stage for substantial overseas exports," adds Tanti. "OECD countries like Denmark and Germany have focussed export of wind turbines as a major trade commodity through strong government support. India can achieve similar export earnings."