Capacity, cost take wind out of ‘re-powering’ policy’s sails

By: | Updated: August 18, 2016 6:47 AM

Lack of commensurate transmission capacities coupled with states’ reluctance to buy costly power could derail the Centre’s new “re-powering” policy for wind power firms...

Tamil Nadu is potentially the biggest gainer from the re-powering policy, followed by Gujarat, Karnataka and Rajasthan. (Reuters)Tamil Nadu is potentially the biggest gainer from the re-powering policy, followed by Gujarat, Karnataka and Rajasthan. (Reuters)

Lack of commensurate transmission capacities coupled with states’ reluctance to buy costly power could derail the Centre’s new “re-powering” policy for wind power firms, which require turbines with less than 1 megawatt rating to be replaced by more powerful ones. Tamil Nadu, which has an installed wind power capacity of 7,300 MW and was supposed to play a major role in the capacity augmentation drive, has already slowed procuring tied-up solar power citing transmission issues, indicating that re-powered wind plants might not find ready buyers.

“Most of the wind turbines installed till 2000 are of capacity below 500 kW and are at sites having high wind energy potential,” said the ministry of new and renewable energy policy published earlier this month.

“It is estimated that over 3,000 MW of the country’s installed wind capacity (of the total of 27,000 MW) are equipped with turbines of 500 kW or below. In order to optimally utilise the wind energy resources, re-powering is required,” the policy added.

Tamil Nadu is potentially the biggest gainer from the re-powering policy, followed by Gujarat, Karnataka and Rajasthan. The state has a little over 4,000 MW of wind power capacity made up of turbines rated less than 1 MW. If the entire lot is replaced with bigger and more efficient turbines, the installed capacity could double. This would, however, test the existing transmission capacity and pose challenges for evacuation. Similarly, in Rajasthan, Karnataka and Gujarat, capacities of 1,092 MW, 1163 MW and 1,498 MW, respectively, could be doubled.

However, many states have recently been asking renewable projects to scale down generation, citing congestion in the intrastate transmission network. In June, solar power developers petitioned the central government against the Tamil Nadu distribution company’s refusal to evacuate power fully from solar developers, which had forced them to curtail generation by 50-100%.

This was followed by MNRE’s letter to the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission that asked for enforcement of the “must-run status” for solar power projects. “There is a need for clear regulations by appropriate commissions to enforce must-run status for solar projects. They should be paid full tariff if they are forced to back down in rare cases,” Tarun Kapoor, MNRE joint secretary, wrote. He requested that the issue be placed before a forum of regulators so that some consensus can be reached on this issue.

Despite the challenges, wind turbine manufacturers have welcomed the policy and its attendant incentives.

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“Accelerated depreciation and generation-based incentive are also made available to the re-powering projects as per the conditions applicable to the new wind power projects. With the new policy, wind turbine generators of capacity 1 MW and below would be eligible for re-powering under the policy,” said DV Giri, secretary general, Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association.

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