In sync with the Centre’s aim to have 10 GW of offshore wind power capacity by 2022, the National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) is setting up five more LiDARs to generate wind data.

LiDARs are equipment that measure wind speeds and direction at different heights by sending up a laser beam and tracking the motion of air particles by capturing the light reflected back by the particles. Wind speed data (for at least a year) is an absolute necessity for energy companies; the data will help them decide on aspects like location and tariffs, when the government comes up with capacity auctions.

Each LiDAR costs about ₹10 crore; the expenditure will be met out of the funds given by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, NIWE Director-General K Balaraman told BusinessLine .

Gujarat auction soon

NIWE already has one LiDAR in the Gulf of Khambhat, Gujarat, which has produced wind speed data for over a year.

The government company SECI, which is tasked with the development of wind and solar energy in India, is expected to auction 1,000 MW of wind capacity in the gulf.

The auctions could be announced any time now. A call by SECI in March for ‘Expression of Interest’ for putting up offshore wind farms in the region attracted response from over 30 consortia, involving over 70 companies. India’s offshore saga began with a European Union-backed feasibility study project, christened Fowind (for ‘facilitating offshore wind’ in India).

Govt targets

In a report it produced in December 2017, the study suggested pathways for India to attain offshore wind capacity of 5 GW by 2032. (The report stressed that 5 GW was not a suggested target.) However, earlier this year, the Indian government surprised the industry by announcing a target of 5 GW by 2022, going up to 30 GW by 2032, and calling for EoI for the first GW to be put up in the Gulf of Khambhat.

Incidentally, NIWE has now issued a tender for awarding the job of conducting ‘offshore geotechnical investigations’ on an area of 400 sq km near the LiDAR in the Gulf of Khambhat.

India’s aggressive push towards offshore wind energy comes on the back of falling offshore wind energy prices globally. A couple of years ago, an offshore wind developer could not sell his power for less than ₹12 a kWhr; now, a recent power purchase agreement, of 800 MW Vineyard Wind project in the US, the tariff is 6.5 cents , or ₹4.6 a kWhr. And the prices are set to fall further.

Bigger turbines

Offshore wind turbines are getting bigger and bigger. Some are of nominal capacity of 10 MW. The biggest cost of offshore wind is that of the foundations, observes Balaraman. But with bigger machines, the cost per MW of foundation has come down. Thus encouraged, India is keen on offshore wind. With the LiDARs, the country will be ready with a resource map for developers, he said.

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