Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

Offshore Wind: The sleeping giant has been stirred

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Challenges for harnessing offshore wind energy


News

  • India’s offshore wind energy sector is hoping for a new lease of life with the draft offshore wind energy lease rules

Unmet challenges

  • The offshore wind energy comes with expensive challenges like resource characterization, sub-sea installation, turbine foundation and development of long transmission infrastructure.
  • India is ill-prepared to meet these challenges due to the lack of technological knowhow and studies to assess resources.
  • The country, nevertheless, jumped on to the bandwagon with its ‘National Offshore Wind Policy’ in 2015.
  • And, as is the trend in India, the government set ambitious targets — a capacity of 5 GW by 2022 and 30 GW by 2030.

Progress till date

  • FOWIND, or the Facilitating Offshore Wind in India, is a Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC)-led consortium that hoped to bring to India its leanings from the European experience.
  • The preliminary assessments estimated tremendous potential along the coasts in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
  • It was also handed the responsibility of the first demonstration project or the First Offshore Wind Project in India (FOWPI).
  • The first round of geotechnical, geophysical, ground investigation and metocean assessments was conducted by national Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) and by FOWPI.
  • The latter led the first Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR)-based wind profiling in the Gulf of Khambhat, which began in November 2017.

What the government did

  • Instead in April 2018, the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) released an expression of interest (EOI) to get the lay of the land.
  • Despite considerable interest that the conservative EOI drew, no tender was issued.
  • In parallel, with the slowdown in the onshore wind industry, the excitement around offshore wind energy fizzled out very soon.

Draft Lease Rules for Offshore Wind

  • The MNRE in 2019 released Draft Lease Rules for Offshore Wind.
  • The regulations apply to leasing of offshore blocks anywhere between 100 and 500 square metres within the exclusive economic zone off the Indian coast.
  • The lease for prospecting can be for up to five years, for developers to undertake necessary assessments and feasibility studies.
  • Project development activities will be allocated a 30 year lease, with a facility to extend for five more years.
  • It talks about compensation to the developer in case the central government pre-emptively procures the energy generated and also permits curtailment if issues with grid stability or security arise.

Promises of the rules

  • The lease rules have also included social and environmental caveats rigidly stating that the development of the farm wind should not in any way affect the livelihood of the coastal population.
  • It should not lead to the deterioration of local flora and fauna.

Various loopholes

  • The National Offshore Wind Policy lays the onus of development of transmission infrastructure (till the sub-station on land) on the developer.
  • Large investments in offshore structures and transmission facilities will result in uncompetitive high tariffs – something Indian power procurers do not have the stomach for.
  • Second, there has been no mention on port augmentation and utilization for the purposes of offshore wind project development.
  • Functional ports close to offshore farms are essential to reduce costs. They could also help in operation and maintenance, repowering and decommissioning.
  • Neither the policy nor the regulations discuss upgrading or redesigning existing ports.
  • If India is serious about offshore wind, it must set up dedicated ports. Europe, for example, has 10 such ports.
  • Further, there is no visibility on whether the energy procurers will even buy the electricity generated at the high tariffs that offshore wind projects will inevitably yield.

Way Forward

  • There are several reasons for India to diversify to offshore wind, the primary one being the contentious nature of land in India.
  • A close second is that the best wind potential sites in the country are filling up.
  • Further offshore wind development in India is egged on by the tremendous potential, an underutilized manufacturing capacity and a thirst for more energy.
  • These worries might need to be addressed with government-backed guarantees in long-term power-purchase agreements.
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