High costs, focus on new capacity hinder upgrades
MUMBAI: Even as the Centre has ramped up the renewable energy target for the country, nearly 18 per cent of the existing wind capacity is due for repowering.
Repowering refers to the practice of installing more powerful wind turbines in existing sites to generate more power and drive higher efficiencies.
Currently, 5,303 MW of wind capacity, which accounts for 18 per cent of the total installed capacity of wind in India, could be repowered, according to data compiled by renewable energy consultancy firm Artha Energy Resources. This is higher than a previous industry estimate of 3,000 MW.
“Repowering is currently dormant because the focus of the government is on new capacity addition,” said Animesh Damani, Managing Director, Artha Energy Resources. “There has been little attention paid to the existing wind capacity installed in the 1990s. Most of these sites are excellent in terms of wind density, but are occupied by very old machines, most of which may not be working.”
According to Artha, Maharashtra and Karnataka account for the largest chunk of old wind farms, at 1,893 MW and 1,410 MW respectively, followed by Gujarat (652 MW), Tamil Nadu (524 MW) and Rajasthan (526 MW).
“Repowering enables utilising the same land parcel to generate double the energy by deploying next-generation wind turbines which give higher plant load factor (PLF),” said Tulsi Tanti, founder and CMD Suzlon Group. According to him, Suzlon is the custodian of around 30 per cent of wind assets identified by the government for repowering.
According to industry experts, the power tariff arrangement after repowering has to protect the interests of both farm owners and discoms. But this is difficult, given that the existing tariff for new wind projects, in the range of ₹3 per unit, is lower than the tariff for older wind plants. Transmission infrastructure that would require expansion to support new machines is another issue.
Pranay Mundra, President of Gensol Group, notes the current policy is more a framework, rather than detailed guidelines; hence, practical issues, including PPAs, extra land requirement and land ownership transfer are not addressed. Moreover, he adds, PPAs are a State subject, and there are no policies from the States on repowering.
An industry player who did not want to be identified said the incentives given for farm owners and project developers for repowering are not attractive, making it more expensive than setting up a new wind farm.