CHENNAI: From being a power deficient state, Tamil Nadu has risen to top the country in installed wind capacity, making it also one of the top states globally, behind only a few provinces in China and Texas in America, as a renewable energy generator.
A more diversified electricity generation mix will serve Tamil Nadu better, say experts. “New low cost solar capital additions and a major re-powering of Tamil Nadu’s wind projects, a concerted improvement in energy efficiency plus reduced transmission and distribution losses, should deliver more than 80% of all electricity demand growth in the coming decade,” said IEEFA’s Energy Finance Studies Australasia director Tim Buckley in an international study conducted by him. By adopting more green power, the discom will be able to operate profitably and at a lower tariff for consumers, said Buckley.
Wind power evacuation in Tamil Nadu has been the lowest this year as compared to the last three years. Data available with the state’s power utility Tangedco shows that the discom has evacuated only 5,790 million units of wind energy between April 1 and August 22, compared to 9,133MU during the corresponding period last year and 8440MU in 2016. Heavy rainfall in wind catchment areas has been blamed for the low wind power evacuation but it has increased hydro power generation to a record high this year.
Tamil Nadu has an installed wind power capacity of 8,000MW and nearly 99% of that is in the private sector. The wind power season begins in May and lasts till mid-September. At times, it extends till October. In the last few years, there has been record wind power evacuation and in 2017, the intra-day high was 5,093MW, but this year it is yet to cross 5,000MW. Tamil Nadu is the only state to keep its thermal units on standby during peak summer as the state has substantial capacity of green energy in the form of wind and solar power.
Compared to the last few years, wind power season began late this year. In the past two years, the state tapped wind power in April, but this year wind power generation was low even in May. This resulted in a drastic fall in evacuation of wind power, say power managers.
Heavy rainfall in Tirunelveli and Coimbatore districts, which are the major wind catchment areas, affected wind power generation this year. Incessant rain in Kerala had its impact on wind power generation in the bordering districts of Tamil Nadu.
For Tangedco, wind energy, at less than `4 per unit, is the second cheapest source of power after hydro energy. By tapping wind power, the state saves on coal consumption.
Wind power producers are hoping that the coming days would yield more power. “Even today, it is raining in Valparai and nearby areas, affecting wind power generation in the region. We are confident that before the end of the season we will be able to cross last year’s wind power usage,” said Indian Wind Power Association president K Kasturirangaiyan.
Many wind power producers are small players with less than 1MW capacity each. They make some earnings only during this season. “Payment from Tangedco is pending for the past one year. We have been asking for payment, but only a part has been released,” said a wind power producer not willing to be named.
Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu’s hydro power generation between April and July this year was 326% more than the generation for the corresponding period last year. Though many areas are flooded due to water release from dams, Tangedco has been a major beneficiary as its hydro generation during the first four months of this financial year was 1,349MW compared to 412MW last year. Tamil Nadu’s hydro power installed capacity is 2,307MW and most of the hydro power generation capacity is situated in the Nilgiris district. Incessant rainfall in the hills has contributed to higher hydro power generation which has increased from less than 100MW to a peak of 1,500MW.
“In recent times, Kundah, Pykara and Kadamparai hydro pumps ran for 24 hours due to heavy rain in catchment areas,” said the official.
Hydro power projects were set up in the early 1960s when the state was solely dependent on this source of power. “In earlier years, hydro power used to be generated during peak summer with the water saved during the southwest monsoon. But this year we ran the pumps on current receipts,” said the official.