According to the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE), India’s offshore wind energy potential is estimated to produce around 70,000 Megawatt (Mw) power, majority of that has been identified in coastal Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
This topic of “Offshore wind power – The underutilized potential of India” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.
What is Offshore Wind Power?
Offshore wind power refers to the electricity generated from windmills installed in the bodies of water, usually on the continental shelf rather than on land. Unlike the typical usage of the term “offshore” in the marine industry, offshore wind power includes inshore water areas such as lakes and sheltered coastal areas. Offshore wind farms can support larger wind turbines and hence generate higher amounts of power. In this article, we shall discuss various issues, policy and challenges associated with offshore wind power in India and ways to utilize this untapped potential.
Why India needs offshore wind power?
- The electricity demand-supply mismatch in India has been at a peak for the past few years. The country depends on its coal-based thermal power stations to satisfy its increasing demand. With the economy experiencing 7-8 percent growth rates, India is looking for means to enhance its generation capabilities.
- About 53% of electric power in India is generated from coal and lignite based thermal plants, which contribute a lot to air pollution. India, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China, plans to reduce its carbon footprint by 33-35% from its 2005 levels by 2030, as part of its commitments to the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Hence the need of the hour is a cleaner and renewable source of energy, in which offshore wind power can play a major role.
- Globally, there are around 14,300 MW (Megawatts) of installed offshore wind energy capacity, 88% of it in European waters and the rest in China, Japan, South Korea and the US. With India having an estimated 127 GW (Gigawatts) of offshore wind power potential, it is high time that we utilise such potential.
What is the offshore wind energy potential of India?
India has an estimated 127 GW of offshore wind energy potential, mostly off the coasts of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Maharashtra. As per the official estimate, the Gujarat coastline has the potential to generate around 100 GW of offshore wind energy and Tamil Nadu about 60 GW.
What are the advantages when compared to onshore projects?
- Large area available for setting up large projects is the major reason for moving towards offshore projects since there is a lack of suitable wind turbine sites on land.
- Wind speeds are considerably higher at sea than onshore locations
- Wind is less turbulent at sea than over land which results in lower mechanical fatigue load and hence longer lifetime for the turbines.
- Wind speed is more consistent at sea than on land where low winds occurring most of the times. At sea, periods of complete calm are extremely rare and short-lived.
- As these sites are located far from land they have a less visual impact which helps with public acceptance issues.
- The offshore wind farms are usually located near to the cities and load centres and thus transmission losses are minimised.
- The gestation period for offshore projects is quite low at around 1-2 years when compared to onshore projects which are around 3-6 years.
What are the challenges/issues for offshore projects in India?
High capital cost: The foundation and installation cost for offshore projects is much higher compared to that of onshore. Furthermore, the cost in India might be on the higher side because of various factors like absence of installation and support vessels, lack of sub-structure manufacturers, lack of trained manpower etc.
Lack of data: The data required for the calculation of offshore wind potential and identification of suitable sites are not available. Two important data required are- wind resource map and Bathymetric data. Resource map is crucial because there are particular zones like the shipping lanes, military exercise areas, dredging regions, oil exploration areas, exclusive fishing zones, areas with underlying submarine communication cables, and dumping grounds for ammunition, explosives and other hazardous material that have to be considered before finalising the exact potential areas.
Regulatory framework: Currently there is no dedicated regulatory framework available for offshore wind energy on the lines of Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) for the promotion of solar energy.
Clearances: It is not clear from which department clearances are required.
High energy tariff: Offshore windmills are more expensive than onshore ones, power generated from the former could cost around Rs 12 per unit, compared to around Rs 2.43 for onshore wind power, the cheapest source of renewable energy in India today.
Transmission issues: Another major constraint for offshore wind energy is on making available the grid and the transmission lines.
Manufacturing of Equipment: Offshore wind farms typically have larger turbines and longer windmill blades. But most firms in India don’t yet make such high-capacity machines, so components will have to be imported. This might affect investor interest.
What are the Opportunities?
- A study reveals that turbine prices have always been lower in India than the global average due to lower labour, material and production cost in the country. India can leverage scale to bring down offshore energy tariffs by harnessing the enormous wind power potential along its 7600 km coastline.
- Another factor favouring the cost reduction is the mass production of turbines. The current annual production capacity of onshore wind turbines manufactured in India is about 3000-3500 MW, including turbines for the domestic as well as for the export market. With the new market entrants, it is expected that the annual production capacity will rise to 5000 MW.
What are the initiatives taken by the Government?
- In 2015, the country released its first National Offshore Wind Energy Policy, detailing the government’s roadmap on offshore wind energy. It involves wind energy mapping of the country to identify high-potential locations to be offered to firms for development through a bidding process. With this policy, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) has been authorized as the nodal ministry for use of offshore areas within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the country and the National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) has been authorized as the Nodal agency for development of offshore wind farms up to the seaward distance of 200 Nautical Miles (within its Exclusive Economic Zone) from the baseline.
- The Government also plans to add a capacity of 5000 MW of offshore wind energy in its ambitious target of 175 GW capacity of renewable energy by 2022.
- More recently, in 2018, National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) has sought expressions of interest (EoI) from wind power companies to set up an offshore wind farm with a capacity of around 1000 MW in the Gulf of Khambat, off the coast of Gujarat. Both Indian and foreign firms can express interest in the project. The government will sign a 25-year power purchase agreement with the successful bidder. With a large energy market in India, the EoI is expected to rise keen interest from leading players of offshore wind turbine manufacturers and developers.
The offshore wind power can play a significant role in generating clean and sustainable energy. In India offshore wind power still remains untapped and given the power deficit in the country this huge potential needs to be tapped.