Feasibility of Offshore Wind Farms in India


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India’s energy demand is expected to grow at about 3% per annum till 2040, which necessitates the  development of more clean power sources to fulfil this demand. India aims to meet 50% of the nation’s  energy requirement through green energy sources by installing 500 GW of non-fossil fuel-based energy  sources. In this context, the Indian power sector has introduced various policies to encourage investors  and developers to establish more renewable energy plants. In FY 2021–22 alone, 13.54 GW of  renewable energy capacity has been installed in India, with 12.43 GW of solar and 1.11 GW of wind. In terms of onshore wind power installed capacity, India ranks fourth (41.9 GW) in the world as of  February 2023, as reported by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. At the national level, Tamil  Nadu ranks first with 9.96 GW of onshore wind capacity, followed by Gujarat with 9.91 GW and  Karnataka with 5.26 GW. 

However, wind installations on land, although clean, have their own limitations. Only 6% of India’s  wind potential is being utilised at present by onshore windfarms because of difficulties in transporting  wind turbines and Right of Way (RoW) issues. In general, RoW refers to the legal right of passage  through a piece of land, typically granted or reserved over a property for transportation purposes,  electrical transmission lines, and gas pipelines. Along with the Indian economy relying heavily on  agriculture, 55% of India’s total workforce depends on agriculture and its allied sectors. With onshore  wind stations occupying more land area, installation of more wind turbines on land may lead to RoW  issues affecting these sectors. In addition, because of obstructions due to nearby mountains or  landscaping, the wind speed over land may be less than that over oceans. Thus, offshore wind farms provide a substantial advantage over onshore ones. 

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At present, China leads the offshore wind market with an installed capacity of 24.9 GW, followed by  the United Kingdom (13.6 GW), Germany (7.7 GW), and the Netherlands (3 GW). India is currently  estimated to have a wind turbine manufacturing base with a capacity of 10 GW per annum. The capacity  utilisation factor (CUF), which is the ratio of power generated by a power plant to its maximum possible  output for a year, of onshore wind plants is nearly 25% in India. As per India’s Wind Potential Atlas  report published by the National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE), the average CUF for offshore wind  farms is estimated to be 30%–40%, and it can even reach up to 50% at some specific locations on the  Thoothukudi coast of Tamil Nadu. Further, the NIWE estimates the offshore wind potential of Gujarat  and Tamil Nadu to be 36 and 35 GW, respectively. Owing to these factors, the wind sector is increasing  its investments in offshore wind technologies. 

Globally, offshore wind energy prices are reducing because of technological improvements and  evolution of new electricity markets. As per an analysis conducted by a strategic consulting for  renewable energy, the average levelised cost of energy (average total cost of a project per unit of total  electricity generated) generated by European offshore wind farms has reduced from 110 €/MWh in  2019 to 60 €/MWh in 2021. Moreover, based on a report published by the International Renewable  Energy Agency (IRENA), the global weighted average levelised cost of electricity of offshore wind has  been reduced by 60% in 2021 compared with that in 2010. This is expected to further reduce with time  and advancement in technology. In this context, on 9 June 2022, the Ministry of Power (MoP) decided  to invite bids for the development of offshore wind farms with an installed capacity of around 4 GW/year for a period of 3 years starting from FY 2022–23. In addition, the MoP plans to add a minimum installed capacity of 5 GW/year for 5 years starting from FY 2025–26 to achieve 37 GW of the offshore  wind target. To encourage more investments in the offshore wind sector, the MoP has introduced a  policy stating that the power generated from all offshore wind farms will be evacuated from offshore  wind pooling stations to the onshore transmission network free of cost until FY 2029–30. The Power  Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL) is responsible for evacuating the power from offshore to onshore substations at a voltage level of 220 kV. 

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Nevertheless, like any other type of power generation, offshore wind generation has its own challenges  and limitations. Unlike onshore wind generation, the development of offshore wind farms requires  coordination among multiple agencies with expertise in oceanography, environment, civil, mechanical,  and electrical, among others. This will require a higher capital investment and greater gestation period. Since these wind farms are located in the ocean, turbines are constantly prone to corrosion, resulting in  damage. Thus, regular maintenance is required, which increases the operating cost of the farm.  Furthermore, fishing and shipping routes may be impacted by offshore wind farms. Finally, the  establishment of a wind farm and the noise produced by the turbines can have adverse effects on the  marine life in the area. So, an offshore wind farm should be constructed considering all such effects to  minimise any impact on marine life. 

The coastal states of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu have a very good offshore wind potential with a high CUF. Onshore wind knowledge and marine oil extraction experience might help India overcome the  challenges in offshore wind farm installation. Moreover, offshore wind farms can operate as one of the  key renewable energy sources to meet India’s 2030 renewable energy target. Although there are certain  challenges during the installation and operation of these wind farms, these issues can be resolved over time with technological advancements and experience. Additionally, since transporting wind farms  across the land is a significant problem, positioning wind farm manufacturers close to the ocean should  be promoted. In addition to the technical and financial requirements for offshore wind turbines, there  are other regulatory obstacles to entering the maritime industry, including the need for numerous agency  permissions. The government should further explore these barriers and provide a nationwide window  for clearance. 

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Jayateertha J and Harikrishna K V
The authors work in the area of transmission and grid planning in the Energy and Power Sector at the Centre for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP), a research-based think tank

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