The wording of the advertisement was strong. "It has come to the notice of the government as well as NEEMA that a few so-called Manufacturers/Importers/Agents . . . are working against the interests of wind energy development in the country." Potential industrial customers for wind turbines were asked to take note of this "and avoid getting trapped by these tactics."
Dubbed a "Caution Notice," the advertisement's publication was carefully timed, appearing on the third day of the South Asia '96 renewable energy conference and exhibition. Most of the players in the Indian wind industry were gathered there. At a January meeting in Delhi, NEEMA had already openly condemned what it claimed were illicit practises by some importers of used machines (Windpower Monthly, February 1996).
The industry is receiving support for its views from India's Minister of Non Conventional Energy sources, Professor P.J. Kurien. At a meeting in Madras on February 16, he referred to reports he had received of obsolete wind turbines being installed for no other reason than to claim tax credits and susbsidies. Such speculative development would send "wrong signals to genuine investors, whether in India or abroad," he commented, warning that the ministry may be forced to withdraw all incentives if such misappropriation of subsidies continued.
Outside India, the wind industry appears nonplussed by the furore. American George Stricker, business development manager at Zond International, says he does not understand what the fuss is all about. "What is vital, is the cost per unit," he says, but adds: "We're not in the business of selling second-hand machines." Nevertheless he admits that people have approached him with this in mind in the US. "We have no agreements," he says.
Robert Clingensmith of wind investment company Difko in the US was also present at South Asia '96. Difko sold the Micon turbines to Pearl Securities through Pearl's US partner, wind developer Cannon Energy. Clingen Smith says he has no misgivings about the deal. " It is important to understand that the equipment went through thorough checks and major repairs. " Defending the deal, he adds that the machines were in "excellent condition with a lifetime of at least another 15 years." Commenting on NEEMA's advertisement, he says: "I agree in principle, if the basis of the statement is truly their concern. In California for instance, there is a lot of equipment I would not like to see come into India. There should be a criteria given before it is moved."
Another American at the exhibition, Peter Banner of Support Resources Inc, feels the Indian industry is unnecessarily and overly concerned. "The machines delivered were redesigned at a cost of $30,000 five years ago," he says. But that still leaves India with the problem of sorting the good from the bad when buying used turbines. "That's easy. The track records of the companies will need to be checked before equipment is bought," says Banner, adding that granting tax credits on sales of power produced by these machines would be an excellent market incentive.
Banner sees a flourishing business in uprooting turbines in California, unprofitable now their Standard Offer 4 power purchase contracts have expired, and shipping them to India. "A number of developers in the US are looking at pulling down their 65 kW and 100 kW turbines," he says. "Over a thousand used turbines or more could potentially find their way into India. When people realise they are viable, other countries too, might look into exporting to India."
The Indian wind industry remains far from convinced that this is a good idea. Strong arm tactics are being considered to prevent the installation of second hand turbines, including the requirement that State Electricity Boards issue "No Objection Certificates" to developers before allowing a project to go ahead. Without this certificate, grid connection would not be possible.