Repowering. As Wind Energy Gains in Europe, Can India Learn?

Repowering, or the replacement of older wind turbines with newer, modern ones with higher capacity, is expected to power a major pat of Europe's green ambitions. A deal this week between Dutch farmers and Vestas showed just how. What can India learn from it?

A wind energy deal late last week has provided food for thought to policy makers in India too.

A collective, or cooperative  of close to 200 farmers in the  Netherlands have managed to get funding to build one of the largest onshore wind farms in the country.  the money will be used to replace over 200 wind mills, with new, state of the art wind turbines.  The rated output from the new turbines is close to 322 MW

The farmers had set up a firm, Windpark Zeewolde BV that got the  500 million euro  loan  from Rabobank .

Vestas Wind Systems has been selected to execute the project, by the end of 2022.
Europe, which has lately been in the news mostly for its offshore wind energy targets and successes, the Netherlands example provides one clear way to win over local support and push for a broader repowering of its onshore wind energy network.  Experts predict an output increase of 250 to 500 percent from such a move, when done on pre-2000  wind energy installations.  Many of which coincidentally, have come to the close of their planned life cycle initially.

In India, ‘repowering’ has barely scratched the surface, although the potential is huge.A study commissioned in 2018 by the Indo German Energy Forum Support Office, conducted by Mumbai-based IDAM Infrastructure advisory, has some more interesting facts.  Over 10 GW of installed capacity of wind Turbines with less than 1 MW capacity  are installed in high quality class 1 sites . Another 2.5 GW has  less than 500 KW turbine capacity.

That simply means that besides an obvious market for replacing these old turbines, the same sites offer the opportunity to more than double power generation by upgrading to the modern turbines, typically rated for a capacity of 2.5 to 3 MW , and a CUF (capacity utilisation factor) of 25-30% and higher, as compared to 15% or lower on the older models.

With much higher productivity and output, issues such as fractional ownership of older wind turbines (due to tax benefits on those at the time) , and conditions such as owners consuming at least 51 percent of output are considered obstacles. On the other hand, for the wind sector, removal of such bottlenecks means access to class 1 sites, a solid runway for at least 10-12 GW of installations and with higher RPO obligations kicking in soon, an opportunity for discom backing too.  States like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, especially the former, have much to gain from a new focus here. With fresh wind energy at between Rs 2.70 to Rs 3.20 fro these installations,energy costs remain comfortably below what these   states pay for their overall need right now.

Thus, with many coal powered thermal plants nationwide  set to be shut ideally over the next five years (49, according to power Minister R.K. Singh), there is a strong case to consider repowering these wind installations as a faster, cheaper, and greener option, than  any further efforts to prolong the life of polluting thermal plants.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna Singh is the founder at IamRenew

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