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Harrowing time for windmill tower manufacturers in Tamil Nadu

According to reports, wind energy generation may have come in as a huge relief for the State government to meet power shortage, but windmill tower manufacturers in Tiruchi continue to go through a harrowing time.

Investment in windmills in Tamil Nadu has dwindled to less than 10 per cent in two years. According to industry watchers, investment on windmills has fallen from Rs. 7,000 crore in 2010-11 to Rs. 600 crore in 2012-13. Tamil Nadu is losing out to Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan on the windmill front

With installed capacity of 7,134 MW as on September 30, 2012, Tamil Nadu still stands first in India, accounting for 40 per cent of the windmill power generated across the country , according to Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency. The State is in a position to generate between 2,500 and 3,500 MW between May and October.

The generation could be increased by 2,000 MW if the ageing equipment in windmills are replaced, say manufacturers of windmill towers. As much as 1,000 MW to 1,500 MW go waste in the absence of proper evacuation and transmission infrastructure to tap power from units running with high plant load factor. New investors are learnt to prefer northern States because of payment issues in Tamil Nadu.

In the recent past, Kambam Pass in Dindigul district was identified as a wind potential area.

The other places with average wind speed of 18 to 22 km an hour are Coimbatore and Erode (Palghat Pass), Tirunelveli, and Tuticorin (Shencottah Pass), and Kanyakumari (Aralvoimozhi Pass). According to a preliminary assessment done by a Scottish Agency, off-shore wind power could be tapped to the extent of 1,000 MW each in Rameswaram and Kanyakumari.

But the suppliers of windmill components in Tiruchi are not prepared to take risks. “Our business is near stagnant. Only 10 per cent of our capacities are utilised,” K. Premanathan, Managing Director, Anand Engineering Products Pvt. Ltd., said.

Distance being a key factor, progress made in wind power generation by northern States does not mean much to the local industries.

A dozen fabrication industries in Tiruchi that had switched over to manufacture of windmill towers since 2004 are shifting gears and looking for opportunities to fabricate equipment for mining and construction industries. Adaptation was possible without substantial capital expenditure, Mr. Premanathan said.

Some of them, however, prefer to set apart a part of their production capacities for manufacture of windmill components as Tamil Nadu has in the recent past initiated measures to strengthen evacuation and transmission infrastructure.

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