The world runs on energy derived predominantly from conventional and non-renewable carbon-based sources. In the recent century, energy usage and dependence have surged manifold and so have the environmental consequences of burning carbon in massive amounts. There has been a growing awareness about the effects that the smoke, suspended particles and other gases have on the environment and life forms on this planet. Ever since this recognition and awareness was brought about, there has been a search for cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy. Some of the options that pop up when we think about renewable energy are solar and wind energy. Though such advancements exist, wind energy technology is not being fully utilized in the Indian context. The questions that arise here are why is this so and what the challenges that prevent full utilization of these technologies are.
India ranks fifth in the world in terms of the installed capacity for wind energy generation. The installed capacity in India is 34043 megawatts (MW), making it an important player in the world wind energy market. The states of Tamil Nadu and Gujarat have the largest production capacity of 8197 MW and 5613 MW respectively. The largest wind farm is located in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu with an installed capacity of 1500 MW. The installed capacity is much lesser than the potential, providing more scope for expanding in the future. The estimated potential for wind energy generation in India is 102 GW of which over 81% is untapped. Many states like Orissa and Jammu Kashmir have greater potential for producing wind energy than the actual installed capacity.
Major hurdles to the development of wind power in India are institutional and technical issues. The limitation of power grids makes it difficult to successfully generate wind energy in India. The fluctuations in voltage and grid frequencies are major challenges. This means that the wind energy that is being generated is not being efficiently delivered to the consumers and there is a lot of wastage. Development of the grid infrastructure becomes crucial to make this process more effective and efficient. This demands coordinated action from the government to build the necessary infrastructure that would make this a viable business undertaking for private players.
The cost involved in the setting up, operation and repowering of windmills are deterrents in wind energy generation. The setting up cost is very high with the debt-equity ratio being 70:30. This makes it important to have access to credit at cheap rates of interest. However, there has been a dearth of credit facilities when it comes to wind energy making borrowing expensive. Windmills that have worked through their commissioned period require repowering to make them function efficiently and to enhance their productive capacity. Repowering would, in turn, increase the capacity utilization of the installed mills. However, due to the high costs involved, many farms are not repowering their existing mills. On the contrary, they do not get competitive prices for the units produced making it economically difficult to produce in a situation of high cost and low price. These cost-related challenges make it necessary for the government to develop incentive and credit mechanisms to help overcome the cost problems.
The scalability and sustainability issues associated with all forms of renewable energy are also the problems associated with wind energy. The scalability issue is one of concern as the cost of installation and the output from the single unit maybe be very small making it difficult to set up large scale farms that produce significant amounts of energy. The output from wind energy is not very consistent. The output is impacted by the weather and other external uncontrollable factors. The output fluctuates across months and some months may have a minimum to nil output making it unpredictable. Similarly, it cannot be set up in any available location. Some important topographic and geological criteria need to be met for the plants to be set up. Given the fluctuations and specificity issues, it cannot be taken us a sustained source of energy and can only be complemented with other non-renewable sources of energy.
The potential for wind energy is manifold in India. However, there are issues of cost and scale associated with large scale production of wind energy. The benefit that we get despite these cost issues is that the environmental impact of energy generation and consumption can be significantly reduced. The major impetus to the expansion of wind energy in India comes from the government and research. Incentives for setting up of wind farms especially in terms of credit as well as for competitive prices becomes mandatory for making it a viable enterprise. Secondly, research and development for cost-saving technologies and also for efficiency in production to exploit the productive capacity can boost this sector. The future needs clean energy and it can be achieved only by taking the correct steps at present.
Picture Courtesy- indianwindpower.com