India could see first offshore wind project “in 3-5 years”

03 November 2016, Week 43, Issue 531

Although its onshore industry has largely been a success, it may be three to five years before its nascent offshore sector starts to see turbines spinning. The analysis was made by DNV GL executive vice president and regional manager Mathias Steck, on the sidelines of the Singapore International Energy Week.

“We are preparing India for offshore wind, providing MNRE [India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy] a roadmap for offshore wind for Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. It will take three to five years until we see commercial offshore winds projects in India,” said Steck. 

DNV GL has been working in India since 1989. Steck said that a 100-MW pilot project could be installed in the ocean off Gujarat within about three years, under the Facilitating Offshore Wind in Industry (FOWIND) effort. The scheme is funded by a 4 million euro (US$4.4 million) grant from the Indo-European co-operation on renewable energy programme.

A FOWIND consortium, along with the MNRE and National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE), has undertaken multiple studies on generating wind power along the coastlines of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. 

Interestingly, in comments made last month, NIWE director-general S Gomathinayagam contradicted Steck’s projections. He explained that it had taken more than 15 years for Germany to tap its offshore wind energy following data-gathering. With this benchmark, India “may do it in next seven to eight years,” he said.

Whatever the final timeline, the pace of offshore development in India has been glacial. New Delhi approved the National Offshore Wind Energy Policy in September 2015 with the aim of harnessing wind power along India’s 7,600-km coastline, up to 200 nautical miles (370 km) offshore, which forms the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). MNRE has assessed a potential 106,000 MW of offshore wind power off Gujarat and 60,000 MW off Tamil Nadu. 

In late 2015, a senior official also announced that tenders would be floated early in 2016 to lease out sea blocks to firms seeking to set up wind farm projects. However, no such auction has happened, with MNRE instead focusing its attention on the launch of a reverse bidding system for onshore wind projects this year.

Offshore wind projects are, no doubt, an attractive option for India given its large coastline and advantages such as better conversion factors. It would also allow developers and government to circumvent the politically sensitive and bureaucratic process of land acquisition. 

However, project implementation is complex, as the cost of generation is higher, while setting up new transmission networks is not easy. With little offshore industry as yet, expertise also remains low. 

DNV’s expectations sound plausible, but may be heavily influenced by European expectations of efficiency. NewsBase agrees that five years is a reasonable estimate, but an Indian offshore wind boom is still a long way off.

Edited by

Andrew Dykes

Editor

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