Repowering Wind Energy Sector In India: Challenges And Opportunities

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India currently ranks fourth in the world in wind power capacity as of February 2021 with a wind capacity of 38.7 GW. In recent years, wind capacity addition has slackened and has not kept pace with the targets set. In 2015, the Indian government has decided to keep a target of adding 60 GW of wind energy capacity by December 2022. With projects of 49.7 GW at various stages of implementation and another 25.9 MW at various stages of bidding, this target looks difficult to be achieved. As per Crisil Rating Information Services of India, the country’s wind installation base may reach just about 45 GW by 2022.

There are various reasons for the slow pace of wind capacity addition including land availability and acquisition issues and a slow-moving manufacturing sector. Also, competitive bidding mechanism has slowed industry growth due to a significant fall in tariffs, triggering a decline in both bid response and profitability for original equipment manufacturers. A cost-effective method to overcome these limitations and to grow wind capacity is repowering which refers to the deployment of newer and higher capacity turbines in the old wind farms.

"Older wind turbines are located in some of the India's best sites in terms of availability of wind. But they have very low plant load factors of 10-15 per cent, compared to more than 30 per cent Plant Load Factor of modern wind turbines."

As per a recent report by Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), repowering the older wind turbines of less than 1 MW capacity with modern turbines of 2-3 MW capacity could massively boost India’s wind power generation, converting into installation of 30 GW of new capacity in India’s top wind resource site. Since most of these are top wind sites locations, there is substantial merit in repowering these sites to leverage these locations optimally and in a cost-effective manner.

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Figure 1: Snapshot - Wind Assets with P50 Resource Profile – India

It is easy to understand why one fifth of our wind turbines in India now run on, outdated technology. India started harnessing wind power around the 1990s. Most of the older plants located at high-speed wind locations (mostly based in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat) use old turbine technology. Wind turbine technology has made rapid advancements with improved rotor diameters and hub heights with the result that the new turbines have almost double the generation capacity as compared to turbines that are a decade older. Besides, the new turbines also need less investment on operations and maintenance, thus improving profitability.

Despite a huge potential and a Wind Repowering Policy in 2016, India has not been able to leverage this hidden potential. Some of the challenges are additional costs including investments needed in transmission assets to evacuate additional power, ownership of wind plants with multiple owners, low PPA bound tariffs of existing assets as well as lack of incentives to kick-start repowering. Meanwhile, India can learn a lot from countries like Denmark, Germany, Spain and Netherlands who have used repowering successfully to grow their wind capacity.

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Figure 2: 320MW Zeewolde Project in the Netherlands (Source: Klaas Eissens/RWE, replaced 220 turbines with 91 modern machines bundled into the Netherlands’ largest onshore wind farm.)

What is the repowering potential in India?

The repowering potential is enormous. “Estimate of repowering potential for wind turbine generators with capacity sizes less than 1,000 kW and with date of commissioning prior to 2002 is 1,577.4 MW,“ says a report by IDAM Infrastructure Advisory Pvt Ltd. The country would immediately gain to work on these sites, given the fact that presumably these would also be some of the best sites in the country.

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Figure 3

Identifying potential sites

The good news is that a new GIS-based data research tool by Singapore-based Genesis Ray Energy, as shown in Figure 4 below, helps in assessing and prioritizing repowering needs sitting in the comforts of home and offices through a desktop site survey. It enables its user to conduct a detailed virtual survey of all the wind turbine installations in the country. To be sure, Genesis Ray Energy data tool called GenRay EXPLORER™ has mapped close to 38,000 Wind Turbines in India.

Genesis Ray’s straight-cut analysis from the tool suggests that nearly 18 per cent of India’s over 34,000 wind turbines are older than 15 years. Using information from the Genesis Ray’s tool, one can immediately analyze that for instance the district of Satara in Maharashtra state in India has close to 350 turbines aged more than 15 years aggregating to almost 300 MW of installed capacity

All the 38,000 wind turbines across India are geotagged on GIS maps, giving exact location of the sites. On a click of a button, key details including capacity of turbine, model number, hub height, date of commissioning, owner of the turbine, details of the turbine manufacturer can be analyzed. Easy exploration and analysis of wind installation datasets are possible with the help of several widgets on the tool. Data in the tool can be retrieved in various forms to help in analysis. For instance, high temporal and spatial resolution maps and 3 dimensional views can be retrieved from the tool. One can also draw charts and info-graphs for prescribed fields for various studies and comparisons.

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Figure 4: GenRay EXPLORER™ Snapshot – Repowering Analysis
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Figure 5: GenRay EXPLORER™ snapshot

Using GenRay EXPLORER™ to screen viable sites for repowering

Recently, the tool added another layer called Site Suitability module, a crucial tool that aids in site screening, analysis and selection of renewable energy projects including wind projects. The tool has particular significance in the current Covid-19 times when extensive physical site surveys have become difficult.

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Figure 6: GenRay EXPLORER™ with Site Suitability Module

The Site Suitability tool enables a virtual survey of sites on key parameters such as land use, soil load bearing capacity, distance from transmission lines, infrastructure connectivity, topographical features of site (such as slope), natural hazard susceptibility, as well as exclusion zoning details for any given location. Updated every quarter, the tool is reliable and easy-to-use, thus helping save crucial time, effort and energy in gathering, cleaning and verifying data for site-surveyors, consultants and technical teams.

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Figure 7: GenRay EXPLORER™ with Site Suitability Module Layers

Using a virtual tool to forecast power generation of wind turbines

Another additional module that gauges resource potential of a wind or solar site to help draw probabilistic generation profile is in the development pipeline for Genesis Ray. 

Besides analysis of a particular site, the tool also helps in comparing sites and prioritizing one site over the other for repowering by comparing them on various fields. Resource and meteorological datasets available such as temperature, relative humidity, wind speeds, wind direction also leads to better evaluation. in an area of interest.

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Figure 8: GenRay EXPLORER™ with Resource Assessment Module
“Our inbuilt chart for age profile of wind turbines helps in quick identification of older wind turbines. The power of GIS lets you visualize these assets at their exact location. Our accurate and modelled resource layer then aids in selection of sites with high wind resource potential.”
Saurabh M e1666331425808
Saurabh Mehta
Vice President, Genesis Ray Energy

Some of the “unique data sets” that the Resource module offers are:

  • Typical Meteorological Year on a 1km spatial resolution
  • Probability of Exceedance of the resource with minimum-maximum range and volatility index on hourly basis (365 x 24)
  • Visualization of resource time series datasets in a mapping format
  • Combines numerical and statistical modelling, estimates based on satellites and ground-based weather stations
  • Typical Daily Profiles for every Month
  • Power generation profiles for each wind turbine model for any selected site
  • Visualization of annual utilization factor for any wind turbine in an area of interest.

What are the key takeaways?

To sum up, repowering can lead to increasing wind generation capacity in a cost-effective way to power India’s growing energy needs. It can lead to increasing wind generation capacity in a cost-effective way to power’s India’s growing energy needs. Using Genesis Ray’s reliable and easy-to-use tool, central and state governments as well as energy consultants can assess and prioritize repowering needs in Indian wind power sector to make a shift towards a clean energy future.