Wind on Waves

Developments and challenges in India’s offshore segment

India’s experience in wind power generation has spanned decades, having added over 30 GW of capacity to the power generation mix of the country. All the wind projects so far have involved onshore wind turbines, although India plans to push its boundaries further and venture into the offshore wind energy space. Offshore wind has proved to be successful across the European countries as well as in China and Japan in Asia. Following these countries, India has initiated preliminary work of offshore wind development under the European Union (EU)-funded projects, Facilitating Offshore Wind in India (FOWIND) and First Offshore Wind Project in India (FOWPI). The FOWPI is being planned off the Gujarat coast to harness the vast wind potential that it offers. This is the first step in the journey towards a tall target of 30 GW of offshore wind energy by 2030.

Wind resource assessment

One of the first steps in setting up offshore wind power in India was taken in October 2015, when the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) introduced the National Offshore Wind Policy, 2015 to harness the offshore potential in the country. So far, the MNRE has initiated various pre-project development activities for offshore wind projects, including resource and site investigations of identified feasible sites, environmental impact assessment studies, framing of leasing rules and guidelines for assessment studies and surveys.

With its endeavour in wind resource assessment, testing and certification of wind turbines in the onshore wind space, the National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) is now at the forefront of facilitating offshore wind in India. The NIWE, in collaboration with the FOWIND consortium, has carried out studies on resource assessment and preliminary feasibility along the Indian coast and demarcated eight zones each in the Gulf of khambhat in Gujarat and the Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu. Based on a report by FOWIND, the NIWE has initiated verification and validation of such studies. The FOWPI consortium is planning to do preliminary studies for developing wind farms in a specific area demarcated by FOWIND. Based on the Meso Scale mapping, it is estimated that approximately 36 GW of offshore wind power potential exists off the coast of Gujarat and about 31 GW of potential exists off the coast of Tamil Nadu.

To obtain more accurate data on wind quality measurements, a light detection and ranging (LiDAR) system has already been installed near the Gujarat coast, which has been gathering measurements about the quality of offshore wind since November 2017. For future projects, the NIWE is planning to deploy five more LiDAR systems to gather long-term measurements across new sites. The MNRE allocated the required budget to the NIWE for the installation of three LiDARs off the coast of Tamil Nadu in the Gulf of Mannar, for carrying out offshore wind measurements at specific locations along with geotechnical investigations. Installation of LiDAR off the Tamil Nadu coast could not be carried out in April 2018 due to opposition from the local fishing community. However, the NIWE has once again initiated the process of getting the required clearances from various agencies for alternative locations.

The upcoming project

To aid the country’s offshore wind endeavour, FOWPI funded by the EU has been set up to support both the MNRE and the NIWE. The government is working on the country’s first 1 GW offshore wind project in the Gulf of Khambhat in Gujarat. Wind measurement data collection for two years has been completed and validated with a ground-mounted wind monitoring station at Jafrabad, Gujarat. The NIWE has published a report based on the data collected from LiDAR for two years. Further, the required geophysical study for an area of about 365 square km has been completed, along with geotechnical studies for five bore holes in the Gulf of Khambhat. An environment impact assessment study has also been conducted through the National Institute of Oceanography for the proposed 1 GW offshore wind energy project off the Gujarat coast. Data collected over the past two years from a LiDAR deployed 23 km from the Jafrabad coast in 2017 has revealed an annual average wind speed of 7.52 metres per second at a height of 104 metres. Following the geophysical and geotechnical surveys, a draft report is currently under examination.

During 2019, the MNRE has invited expressions of interest for 1 GW of offshore projects in India, which have received a good response from domestic as well as global players. The government is planning to approve viability gap funding worth $909 million to support the offshore project, which is now up for final approval. The government funding is expected to compensate the project developer for high capital costs, which may not get covered in the power purchase tariff that has already been set at Rs 3.50 per kWh. All necessary stage 1 clearances for the project, as per the National Offshore Wind Energy Policy, have been obtained by the NIWE. A developer will eventually be selected through a competitive bidding procedure and will then have to obtain stage 2 clearances for the project. The MNRE is in the process of drafting offshore wind energy lease rules in order to regulate the allocation of offshore wind blocks to developers within the exclusive economic zone, a sea zone over which a country has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.

Challenges ahead

Offshore wind has several benefits, including high wind speeds, no land requirement, high energy production and low transmission costs. However, working on offshore projects also poses various challenges. They need to be overcome with proper planning and knowledge through the tools and resources available. One of the challenges is the need for a thorough understanding and data collection of key meteorological and oceanic phenomena. There is a lack of historical technical data. Historical data, including resource map and bathymetric data (information about the sea depth at various positions), is essential for the identification of suitable wind turbine locations, design of wind turbine foundations, and estimation of energy production. Data and information requirements include information gleaned from observations as well as estimated and modelled output. Developers may use the information to evaluate a potential site on a wide range of criteria, including resource quality, ability to obtain permits, access to transmission, impact on and interactions with the surrounding environment, consistency with current land uses and constructability. Financial institutions will, in turn, provide financial support for developments based on the bankable data provided by the agency or developer. The information gathered will help in many aspects such as facility design, energy projections, technology design and validation, performance monitoring, operations monitoring, and site safety and forecasting.

Further, the foundation and installation costs of offshore wind in India are likely to be on the higher side because of the lack of installation and support vessels, a local substructure manufacturers, and trained workforce. High capital cost leads to higher tariffs as compared to current onshore wind rates. For offshore wind in India, tariffs are expected to be in the range of Rs 7-Rs 9 per unit as compared to the prevailing rate of Rs 2.80-Rs 2.90 per unit for onshore wind. In addition to financial issues, there will be obstacles in terms of obtaining timely clearances from the central government ministries and departments, which are likely to be involved in the process. This might hold up the approvals and eventually lead to overall project delays and cost overruns.

Outlook

In June 2018, the MNRE had announced ambitious targets of 5 GW and 30 GW of offshore wind energy for 2022 and 2030 respectively. So far, the request for proposal of the Gujarat project has not been issued. Considering that the construction stage alone requires three to four years, bringing offshore projects in the country online will take significant time. Further, given the logistical constraints of installing offshore wind systems, along with the pace of progress since the announcement, the country is likely to miss these targets.

India is still at a nascent stage of offshore wind development. However, the country is well placed to begin work in the segment, given its long coastline of 7,600 km. The country has a massive potential of about 127 GW of offshore wind power. With a conducive policy, regulatory, financial and technological environment, India may be able to make headway in offshore wind in the long run, despite missing its near-term targets.

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