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Repowering may become the game-changer for wind sector in India

According to reports, Spanish wind-turbine major Gamesa Corporacion Tecnologica SA, which has commissioned two repowering projects in India, believes it now has the demonstration capability to sell the concept of replacing old windmills with the more efficient new ones. At Aaralvoimozhi in southern Tamil Nadu, Gamesa Wind Turbines Pvt Ltd recently completed replacing 11 old wind mills of 225 kW capacity each, with three of its own 850-kW machines. The capacity remains roughly the same, but the new machines, with their ability to rotate even in low-wind speeds, are up longer, generating more electricity.

‘Repowering’ is a concept that has been around for long, but as long as economic benefits lay only in theory, nobody was willing to try it. Besides, most of the old windmills are owned by people engaged in other businesses, such as textiles, and they were prized more for their tax-avoidance value rather than for electricity generation. As these machines still produce some profits — long after they have been milked for their tax value — few have the proclivity to invest in replacing them.

Now, Gamesa believes that its two projects — for LMW near Coimbatore and Fenner India near Nagercoil — will be a game-changer, especially given the pro-green wave sweeping across India. These are the only repowered wind farms in the country and possibly are the green shoots of a repowering revolution.

Interest in repowering is gaining momentum after successful commissioning of the two projects, says Mr A. Gurunathan, Senior Manager, Marketing (Corporate Communications), Gamesa.

A decade ago, when wind mills were regarded as mere ‘depreciation machines’, investors put in only so much money as would be needed to save taxes, giving little thought to aspects such as efficiency. But today, economics is back in its throne. And it is attractive, as the table provided by Gamesa shows.Furthermore, since each standing windmill is a maintenance-headache, fewer machines mean less trouble.

While Gamesa has completed two projects and is moving ahead with others, Business Line learns that many others are interested. “A number of wind IPPs (independent power producers) are in the process of buying old wind farms at attractive valuations, keeping in mind the land and existing evacuation infrastructure,” says Mr Vineeth Vijayaraghavan, Editor, Panchabuta, a renewable-energy industry newsletter. He did not wish to disclose their names. However, he added that since project-development costs were a fifth less of setting up a new farm, the market is bound to grow.

Gamesa officials note that 1,380 MW of wind-power capacity in the country was installed before 2002. This capacity sits on the best wind-sites, working sub-optimally. “Government’s push is needed to repower these sites, so that the land and wind resources are better utilised,” says Mr Vijayaraghavan. “The problem is the repowered wind farms don’t get you better tariffs at least until during the currency of the power-purchase agreements,” says Mr V.R. Sreekumaran, Head, Government Relations and Regulatory Aspects.

Why not incentivise repowering? A new wind farm will be needed for a new evacuation infrastructure, whereas a repowered farm won’t, points out Mr Vijayaraghavan.

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