In an attempt to reduce its dependence on fossil fuel-based power generating units that leaves a huge carbon footprint, the government is now looking at low and no carbon source for energy production. An offshore wind energy policy is in the offing. India proposes to add at least 4500 MW through offshore wind energy once the policy is in place.
The idea of the proposed policy would be to harness energy from offshore winds, waves and currents. However India does not have the expertise in the field and it will have to depend on foreign companies leading to capital inflows.
India, with a coast line of 7,516 km, is one of the most suited destinations for offshore wind energy projects, but does not have the technology to harness vast resources at hand. The leading players in offshore wind energy include Denmark and the UK.
“We are trying to put a policy in place with experiences from European nations that are head and shoulders above anybody in the world in harnessing offshore wind energy technology. Their prowess can be gauged from the fact that the offshore wind energy began in the shallow waters of North Sea. The first offshore wind turbine was installed in Sweden way back in 1990. They have come a long way. We need to emulate their model to harness wind energy,” a senior official with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) said requesting anonymity.
At present two types of offshore wind turbines are being used in the world, bottom mounted offshore wind turbines in shallow water depths (say less than 40m/120 feet) and floating wind turbines for higher water depths and deep offshore areas.
In India, Tamil Nadu has taken a lead in harnessing the offshore wind resources and is in the process of installing a 100-metre mast for a wind turbine in Dhanushkodi in the state.
According to S Gomathinayagam, Executive Director, C-WET, an autonomous body under the MNRE, “India, especially Tamil Nadu has the potential of generating about 1 Giga Watt in the north of Rameswaram and another 1 GW in the south of Kanyakumari as per the preliminary assessment by Scottish Agencies that conducted a detailed survey of the region to asses various parameters required for installing offshore wind farms”.
In contrast Europe already has an installed capacity of 2.0 GW more than 50 GW planned in Europe by 2020. According to the proposed draft policy, the advantages of offshore wind energy are many as wind blows faster and more uniformly at sea (far away from coast) than on land. A faster, steadier wind means less wear on the turbine components and more electricity generated per turbine.
Also suggesting the way ahead the proposed policy said “assessment of wind resources off the Indian coasts will be required to pin point the specific areas, most suitable for offshore wind farms.”
According to the policy, such areas would need to be evaluated from different points of view like oil/gas fields, shipping lanes, hostile weather/sea conditions, marine activities etc and also will be subject to clearances from Ministry of Defence, Department of Space etc. However, wind turbines can be placed close to or between other sites of usage, as they occupy a small foot print and may not hamper concurrent activities in that area.
Also in the absence of indigenous technology India will need to depend heavily on countries that already have proven technology in place in this field.