It has been three and a half years since the government first asked the companies to set up India’s first offshore wind energy project.
The project is yet to take off. It was planned to be built in the Gulf of Khambhat, Gujarat. The capacity on paper for the plant was 1 gigawatt (GW).
In offshore plants, the wind turbines are installed in the water whereas on onshore plants the turbines are set up on solid grounds.
By 2022, India had planned to produce 5 GW electricity. Due to lack of developed port infrastructure, higher costs of installing turbines in the sea and delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic the progress has been dead slow. In the current scenario, India does not have any operational offshore wind energy plant.
Despite the 7,600 km long coastline, and the potential of producing 140 GW we are not producing enough power.
WHY IT IS CRUCIAL
India’s energy demands are set to grow by 3% per year up to 2040. To meet this demand sustainable, clean energy is required.
In COP26 India announced a pledge to meet 50% of its current requirement through renewable energy by 2030. Presently, India draws 103 GW of power from renewable sources meeting 26.4% of the total requirement. This includes solar and wind.
Within a small-time, a span of 2019 to 2020, the offshore wind market grew from 29.2 GW to 35.3 GW. This is according to the Global Wind Report 2021 of the Global Wind Energy Council. The UK leads the list with 10GW followed by China, Germany, Netherlands and Belgium. The production is 9.99, 7.7,2.6 and 2.2 GW capacities each.
If a power generation project would function 24 hours a day for 365 days a year, it would be utilised 100% of the time, but as winds are intermittent, a wind power plant cannot be used all the time. With onshore wind, utilisation is at best 35%, but with offshore, it could be up to 50%-55%, due to stronger winds at sea, said Kashish Shah, an energy finance analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
Despite being more efficient than onshore turbines the cost estimation is a bit tedious. It is estimated that offshore are two to three times the cost of onshore turbines.
In addition, DISCOMs in India are loss-making. They are unable to build infrastructure to help transition to renewable energy sources, according to this NITI Ayog report. Discoms would have to buy expensive power produced by offshore wind plants. After which either the government would cover the cost through subsidies, as the excess cost will not be passed on to the consumer. Or, the companies will have to bear the losses in their own books, said Shah. Subsidies are often not paid to discoms on time, disincentivising buying expensive power, Shah explained.
Also, there is no plan for “planning and delivery of offshore wind grid Infrastructure”, that would take the power from the offshore plant to where it would be used, according to the Global Wind Energy Council report.
Overall, the growth of both offshore and onshore wind energy has been slowing down in India.
For the diversification purpose also, offshore is imported. So that a region is not 100% dependent on only 1 source of energy.
There are ways of reducing the cost if you start looking at offshore projects not only as a source of power but also as a source of other avenues.