Understanding the Onshore and Offshore Wind Energy Potential in India

Understanding the Onshore and Offshore Wind Energy Potential in India

Before we begin to understand the state of affairs of wind energy generation in India, let’s quickly understand how energy is produced by using wind. Simply put, the kinetic energy of wind in motion is transformed into electrical energy by wind turbines.

When wind strikes the blades of the turbine, it causes the turbines to move and thus the kinetic energy of the wind is converted to rotational energy and which is further transformed into electrical energy through the process of electromagnetism.

An important thing to note here is that the length of the blade and the size of the turbine will determine the amount of power output. As a thumb rule, if the wind speed doubles, the power potential increases by a factor of eight.

Now, you must have heard about onshore and offshore wind power. For the uninitiated, let’s quickly understand the differences between the two.

Simply put, onshore wind power is the one generated by wind turbines on land driven by the natural movement of air and offshore wind power is the one generated by turbines on seas or oceans and driven by the winds blowing across the sea. Offshore winds are more effective owing to their fast speeds but it is also difficult to build turbines in the sea owing to their complicated construction mechanisms.

Now let’s see where India is fairing in terms of installed capacity. Currently, India has an installed capacity of 40.358 GW of wind energy. Let’s compare this figure to the total generation potential and then we can better understand where we stand. Wind generation potential is measured at various heights and potential at each height is recorded. The National Institute of Wind Energy installed 800 such monitoring stations to survey the potential at various hub heights and here’s the result of the survey:

Generation Potential(GW)Hub-height(m)
Generation Potential at various heights

651.72 GW out of the 695 GW potential at 120m is coming from just 7 states namely Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka. For offshore wind generation, a survey suggests great potential in areas off the coast of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. An MNRE report suggests that there exists offshore wind generation potential of 36 GW off the coast of Gujarat and 35 GW off the coast of Tamil Nadu.

In 2015, the MNRE set a target for Wind Power generation capacity of 60 GW by 2022. We’re at 40.358 GW now and have got a lot of work to be done now that new turbines are set up at a height of 120m seeing the potential. Capacity addition during 2022-23 is expected to be around 1.5-1.6 GW which is very less compared to the manufacturing capacity of 10 GW per annum. So what is causing all the headwinds?

You’ll be surprised to know that India added 10559 MW of installed capacity between FY16 and FY18 and only 4379 MW between FY19 and FY21. There is a layer of problems that are causing this downfall. It all starts with the centralized bidding process by SECI; since 2017 all wind power project bidding is being conducted via SECI by reverse auctioning capacity. Simply put, the central government bids out all wind energy capacity. The states have no control over this. This has led to smaller players getting wiped out and thus the country in turn losing out on energy generation opportunities.

The total capacity bid out by SECI in all the rounds was 16300 MW out of which only 12470 MW was awarded and further only 3200 MW commissioned due to many projects being surrendered. You may ask why so many projects were surrendered. Well, to dig deep we need to understand the economics of generating wind power.

The investors or power producers are generally the people who buy the land and bear all the construction and operating costs of the project. The operation is mostly handled by wind turbine producers. Now the investors were guaranteed low turbine prices by the turbine producers which led them to bid low on the projects.

However, with rising costs, the wind turbine producers couldn’t deliver the turbines at the said prices and thus most of these contracts had to be canceled, and ultimately most of the projects had to be withdrawn by the investors or power producers.

Another key factor here is that low tariffs are only viable for states with higher Power Load Factor like Gujrat and Tamil Nadu and not for other windy states like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra. PLF is the ratio of the electricity generated to the total potential of the plant over a period of time.

As the capacity utilization in these two states is higher, having lower tariffs become financially viable in these two states but not in the case of the other states. With bidding being conducted in a centralized manner, this factor is not accounted for, and thus lower tariffs are resulting in unviable projects in many states. So there is a dire need for states to bid out capacity and rates being determined based on the PLF in regional conditions.

Turbine manufacturers are now looking for exports rather than catering to domestic demands where they can get better money for their products. All these problems are causing major headwinds for adding capacity to wind power generation in India.

Now coming to the future of wind energy generation in India. The government of India has made a very optimistic target of achieving 100 GW of installed capacity by 2030. To reach anywhere close to this target we at least need to increase capacity by 2000-4000 MW every year, much higher up than the current addition in the range of 1400-1600 MW.

This would require better coordination between states and the centre in terms of necessary permits and clearances and shared vision. The process of bidding needs to be decentralized and states should have the control to plan their roadmap in sync with the targets set by the centre. The road to 100 GW is filled with a variety of challenges, but strengthening coordination among stakeholders and improving the utilization of plants will play a key role in reaching the target.

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