In a recent press statement, R.K. Singh, minister for power and renewable energy, said, “The country will overachieve its 175 GW renewable energy capacity target on the back of new schemes like wind-solar hybrids, floating solar, manufacturing-linked solar and offshore wind projects.” He believes that India will add 227 GW of renewable energy capacity by March 2022, which is more than the set target of 175 GW. The government has been actively promoting these new areas of growth – a target of 10 GW has been set for wind-solar hybrids and 5 GW for offshore wind by 2022. A number of developments have taken place recently in this space, promising a huge opportunity for project developers and investors.
The country’s first commercial wind-solar hybrid plant was commissioned in early 2018 by Hero Future Energies in Karnataka’s Raichur district. Set up by Siemens Gamesa, the greenfield project comprises 28.8 MW of wind turbines and 50 MW of solar modules. Siemens has also developed a 3.375 MW pilot project for NTPC in Kudgi, Karnataka. Such projects lead to a higher return on investment for developers as the plant utilisation factor is increased considerably. Further, the issue of the intermittent nature of renewable energy is also addressed to some extent, leading to greater efficiency of transmission infrastructure and better grid stability. According to industry estimates, the capacity utilisation factor of such projects is over 40 per cent.
Benefits of hybridisation can be seen from a 268 MW hybrid power project in Andhra Pradesh, where the plant load factor (PLF) from wind is 30.3 per cent, and from solar it is 10.6 per cent. Together, a PLF of 40.9 per cent is achieved. Solar panels provide energy from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The peak load from solar panels is approximately 70 MWh at noon. The wind farm generates energy throughout the day at a capacity that fluctuates between 45 MWh and 80 MWh. However, the energy generated from the wind farm stays below 60 MWh between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. The wind farm provides the base energy and the solar attends to the daily peak demand that arises during working hours.
Wind-solar hybrid projects also offer a cost advantage. The capex costs of the hybrid project are lower as wind and solar plants have common land and transmission infrastructure. Opex costs of these projects are also lower due to the common resources used for operations and maintenance services. However, regulatory and land management issues continue to pose a threat to the growth of hybrid projects in the country. Currently, there is a lack of clarity regarding metering arrangements, tariff determination and transmission charges for solar and wind components. This is especially the case with brownfield projects. Land prices are higher near an existing wind or solar farm, which makes it costlier to hybridise the project. Also, designing a brownfield project is tedious due to the shadow effect of the existing wind turbine on the solar panels.
Issues notwithstanding, wind-solar hybrid is a beneficial concept. Realising the benefits, the government is making efforts to promote such projects. The Solar Energy Corporation of India has released a 2,500 MW tender for interstate transmission system-connected hybrid projects. Another tender for a 160 MW hybrid project with a battery energy storage system to be developed in Ramagiri, Andhra Pradesh, has also been released.
India has a coastline of 7,517 km, which can be harnessed for generating wind power. Though the full offshore wind potential is yet to be assessed, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu offer a good potential, according to initial studies. Despite the potential, offshore wind power development has been slow in the country, owing to commercial and procedural issues. A 1,000 MW offshore project can take up to five years to be commissioned. Project development can take two years and construction another three years. This is significantly higher compared with the time frame required for onshore wind projects. Project development takes time, as three to four months are spent in getting clearances from over 10 ministries and departments. This is besides the local approvals required for the installation of the mast to collect wind data in the initial stage. Further, the construction window is closed for four months (from May 15 to September 15) during the monsoon, which delays the implementation of the project, leading to an escalated project cost.
Earlier attempts to set up an offshore pilot project in the country have not been successful. However, the scenario is now changing. The National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) has proposed extensive studies to assess the offshore wind potential. It has also invited expressions of interest (EoIs) for the development of the country’s first offshore wind energy project in the Gulf of Khambhat. As many as 35 national and international developers have expressed interest in the project and the request for proposal is likely to be issued soon.
In sum, a start has been made, but it is not going to be an easy journey, given the complexities associated with offshore project development. There needs to be a clear demarcation of responsibilities between the central and state governments with respect to approvals for faster project development. Railway infrastructure, vessels and specialised ports are necessary to transport and assemble wind turbines. As far as wind-solar hybrids are concerned, the commercials are definitely attractive, and it is only a matter of time that regulatory hurdles will be resolved and these projects will start getting developed at a faster pace.
Based on presentations by Priya Selvaraj, General Manager, Engineering, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Power Private Limited and B.N. Shah, President, Offshore Business, Suzlon Group