Chasing the Wind
Author: Sreyashee Das and Shikhita Gupta
Annually, this day — June 15 is observed as World Wind Day. The day helps raise awareness about wind energy, a natural form of energy that is considered one of the cleanest and most renewable energy sources. This day also sheds light on all the ways that wind energy can help shape energy systems. Global Wind Day began in Europe in 2007 and globally in 2009.
History of Wind Energy
Image: Windmills in Spain, Image source: Goodshots/Jupiter images
Humans have harnessed the power of the Wind since the beginning of civilization. It was used to propel boats down the Nile River in 5,000 B.C. and assisting the Persians with pumping water and grinding grain. In 1850, two men named John Burnham and Daniel Halladay founded the U.S. Wind Engine Company after designing the first windmill in theirs small Connecticut machine shop, which would allow farmers to pump water.
India’s usage of wind energy goes as far back as the 1950s to pump water for domestic use and irrigation and as an alternative to diesel pump-sets. Then in the 6th National 5-year plan, the Government of India introduced the National Windmill Demonstration Program, which saw the installation of hundreds of units of 12 PU-500 wind pumps for shallow water pumping.
Let us understand the basic logic behind wind power and how it works.
The basic principle is similar for all kinds of usage like pumping water, grinding of grains, or producing electricity. The blades of the system either catch or cut the wind wherein the wind's kinetic energy is then used to move a shaft that is either connected to a piston of a pump or a grinder or a generator through a gear system. This rotational motion of the blades then moves the piston up-down to draw water or grind grains or produce electricity with the help of an alternator.
India ranks 4th globally in terms of wind power installation and has a power generation capacity of 39 Gigawatt in March 2021 — much below the 60 GW target (10.25% of power mix) for 2022, which is part of an overall 175 GW aim for all renewable energies.
We are generally familiar with the large-scale power projects, mainly installed in the states of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, etc. Till 2015–16, there was a steady addition of wind energy which started declining from 2016. The hesitance within Independent Power Producers (IPP) such as Inox Wind, Renew Power to add more capacity was majorly due to the following factors:
Major hurdles to the development of Large Scale wind power Projects:
Declining prices of Solar Power Projects which is a major competitor of wind.
The capex required for setting up a wind plant is expensive even with the debt-equity ratio of 70:30. It is important to have access to credit at cheap rates of interest. However, there has been a dearth of credit facilities when it comes to wind energy making borrowing expensive.
Capping the feed-in tariff to IPP to. Rs. 2.43 making wind projects economically unviable.
Wind Turbines are susceptible to storms and hurricanes if not designed well.
Availability of land with optimum speed and continuous flow of wind.
No such indigenous improvement in R&D of wind power.
High Cost of storage to support the intermittent (or fluctuating) nature of wind.
Image source: Inhabitat.com
The growth of wind over the next five years will be driven by the expiry of the inter-state transmission (ISTS) charges waiver in 2023 and the trend of hybrid tenders combining wind, solar, and storage technologies.
Design: We need a drastic change in the design of wind turbines to make them modular, reliable, and robust. India needs more innovators to pitch in and build bladeless and noiseless technologies catering to the huge potential of the domestic market. The key is to create an impact in the Indian market by focusing on efficiency improvement and cost reduction.
Application: Agriculture fields being clear without any barriers provides a huge potential for wind energy to either provide water or do post-harvest processing of food grains. A micro-wind mill, capable of producing around 3000 to 4000 liters of water per hour can play a vital role for smallholder farmers. Moreover, hybrid systems that can both run a pump or do post-harvest processing like the grinding of the product can be extremely beneficial for rural producers to move towards environmental sustainability.
Startups in the Decentralized Wind Energy Space: Avant-Garde Innovations a Vadodara-based wind turbine company has developed a horizontal axis wind turbine for eliminating dependence on state grids for power generation for communities in remote areas. The AVATAR Wind Turbine is a micro silent wind turbine (1KW, 3 KW, 5 KW) and is a perfect choice for rooftop installation in off-grid areas. They were ranked among the Top 3 innovations in the UN Innovations Summit.
Unitron Energy, another indigenous manufacturer of small wind turbines based in Pune has a full-fledged facility to manufacture Wind Generators ranging from Roof Top 650 W up to 5.1 K.W, micro-wind farms up to 0.4 MW, and hybrid systems up to 200 K.W. It has installed several solar-wind hybrid systems with different Corporates and State Governments.
Image source: Sangam Team
Revayu Energy is a cleantech startup providing easy access to affordable & reliable sources of power. To provide 24 hour supply of electricity, it installs wind and solar hybrid projects. It has launched 6 blades low cut in low RPM wind turbines working on as low as 1.5 m/s wind speed. Even a slight breeze of air will provide enough torque for the wind turbine to start producing power. Therefore, increasing the efficiency of the wind turbines. They provide power to telecom towers by installing wind turbines at the tower top thus reducing the cost of wind turbine towers and ensuring faster ROI for the end telecom client.
In a price-sensitive market such as India, as solar continues to become cheaper, wind becomes an unviable option even for decentralized energy installations. Today, the price of a 1KW on-grid installation varies between Rs. 1.5 -1.8 lakhs which is almost 3 times the price of solar systems available in the market. The social acceptance of wind turbines is also influenced by the regular requirement of maintenance and the noise that is generated by the turbines.
The policymakers and regulators should come together to find the answer to — ‘How to make wind technology more affordable?’ It’s also time to nurture new technology innovations and support startups that are working in this sector. We at Sangam are highly supportive of the technologies that are bringing about a ‘wind of change’!
It’s time now to stop chasing the wind with our bare hands and put a turbine to work!
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