Repowering Tamil Nadu’s growing older wind farms to satisfy clear vitality targets


  • Tamil Nadu has 1000’s of previous generators under one-megawatt (MW) capability, functioning previous their lifecycle, and, in response to wind sector specialists, they have to be repowered to satisfy clear vitality targets.
  • Fragmented possession of land and generators, lack of clear and necessary repowering insurance policies by the state, the necessity to enhance evacuation buildings and grid, and totally different tariff necessities are a number of of the challenges which have slowed the progress in windfarm repowering in Tamil Nadu.
  • Whereas some wind vitality builders are able to work on recycling the previous generators if repowering begins, tips for recycling are wanted. Ecologists suggest selecting repowering websites rigorously and finding out the biodiversity impacts of putting in bigger generators in biodiversity-rich areas, to get repowering proper.

In an previous wind farm within the wind-rich area of Kayathar within the Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu, there are 30 wind generators, every with a 200-kilowatt (kW) capability. Many of those generators are nearing the tip of their lifecycle of 20-25 years. Typically, the wind turbine mills (WTGs) on the finish of service life exhibit excessive breakdown charges, require repairs, and are more likely to endure from a scarcity of related substitute components because the expertise has improved considerably over time.

What if these generators might be eliminated and changed with the newest expertise WTGs which might be taller and extra environment friendly? The six megawatts (MW) wind energy plant would then generate 16.2 MW, finds a 2021 research that performed an financial investigation of repowering current wind farms, with Kayathar as a case research.

This is only one previous farm; if all of the previous wind farms within the southern Indian coastal state with rusty generators and out of date/low functioning elements have been to be eliminated and changed with newer generators, it might be an enormous enhance by way of renewable targets. Nevertheless, Tamil Nadu has 1000’s of generators put in earlier than the yr 2000, with lower than 550 kW capability and the state faces many challenges in repowering.

What’s repowering of wind farms?
Repowering of wind farms means changing older generators which have principally accomplished their lifecycle of 20-25 years (or are nearing their finish), with newer and bigger generators which have elevated vitality capability and environment friendly designs; the first-generation generators will be changed with multi-megawatt generators. The hub top of those generators can be longer, and the blades can be bigger with an optimised design.

By way of the years, the expertise has improved, and the wind farms situated in Tamil Nadu, that have been put in within the Nineteen Nineties, are functioning under their capability. The out of date elements in these generators lead to vital upkeep prices and time inefficiencies, and elevated downtime, which lowers common vitality manufacturing, says the research. Trying into the way forward for these previous wind farms is essential as a result of not solely have they accomplished their life cycle, however additionally they occupy the most effective wind websites of the state.

It was in 2016, that the Union Ministry of Renewable Power (MNRE) launched a coverage for ‘repowering’ of the wind energy initiatives in India. The coverage said that originally, the wind turbine mills of one-megawatt capability and under can be eligible for repowering. Every state’s nodal company or the organisation concerned within the promotion of wind vitality within the state was in-charge of implementing repowering plans. Six years later, Tamil Nadu, with the nation’s oldest onshore windfarms, is but to start out repowering.

Tamil Nadu is residence to about 25 % (near 9.86 gigawatts) of India’s whole put in wind energy capability of 40.35 GW. Furthermore, India goals to put in 140 GW of wind energy capability by 2030. TANGEDCO, the Tamil Nadu electrical energy distribution firm goals to put in 24 GW of onshore wind by the yr 2050 with ‘decided effort’. To fulfill this goal and lead by instance for different states, Tamil Nadu should take the suitable steps ahead in repowering, in response to wind vitality specialists.

Improved vitality capability

“Repowering principally implies that, previous generators might be uprooted and changed with newer generators. The previous machines generate much less vitality and the brand new ones that include an elevated hub top and a bigger rotor diameter, can harvest wind vitality with elevated electrical energy era. In lots of instances, within the place of 20 generators, round three to 4 generators can be sufficient,” stated Okay. Balaraman, Director Basic, Nationwide Institute of Wind Power (NIWE), whereas explaining the advantages of repowering to Mongabay-India.

Based on a 2018 research, supported by MNRE, in India greater than 10 GW of previous wind generators with lower than 1 MW capability are put in in wind-abundant websites. Repowering these websites with trendy generators will quadruple the vitality era. Nevertheless, there isn’t a state-specific repowering coverage in Tamil Nadu, though the MNRE’s repowering coverage says that states would implement these plans.

What’s the state authorities’s stance? In 2021, the Tamil Nadu Electrical energy Regulatory Fee (TNERC) issued a clarification on MNRE’s repowering coverage replying to some continuously requested questions by totally different stakeholders. It stated that “TANGEDCO and the State are benefited by means of optimum utilisation of pure sources and current Transmission Infrastructure erected by means of realising extra era,” recognising the advantage of repowering. Nevertheless, the TNERC additionally stated that “TANGEDCO doesn’t intend to make the repowering process necessary as has been understood by most of the stakeholders. It’s an possibility left to the generator.”

Subsequently, since repowering has not been made ‘necessary’ it’s being left to the selection of the wind turbine house owners to determine whether or not previous generators should be repowered.

Wind turbines in one of Asia's largest wind farms along the Tirunelveli-Kanyakumari state highway roads in Tamil Nadu. Old windfarms when repowered, produce a lot more energy, which will help India meet its renewable energy targets. Photo by Priyanka Shankar/Mongabay.
Wind generators in considered one of Asia’s largest wind farms alongside the Tirunelveli-Kanyakumari state freeway roads in Tamil Nadu. Previous windfarms when repowered, produce much more vitality, which can assist India meet its renewable vitality targets. Picture by Priyanka Shankar/Mongabay.

Learn extra: The wind farm paradox in southern Tamil Nadu


Challenges in repowering

Repowering was going to be the subsequent large factor, in 2016, when the MNRE introduced the coverage however the progress since then has been sluggish. Even when a number of house owners want to repower their wind farm, other than the truth that repowering shouldn’t be necessary, the fragmented land possession and turbine possession additionally stand as main challenges.

“Just like agricultural lands, the wind farm lands are additionally small and fragmented and owned by a number of folks. Micrositing, the method of selecting the particular location of wind generators which is decided by a number of elements like current wind useful resource, distances from different wind generators, and so forth., turns into an impediment,” shared D.V. Giri, Secretary Basic, Indian Wind Turbine Producers Affiliation (IWTMA). Though MNRE has relaxed the principles for micrositing, the location will be repowered solely with the consensus of all land and turbine house owners of a giant space.

“In a thickly populated website like Muppandal, this turns into a problem. It wants permission from many sources, ” Balaraman instructed Mongabay-India.

“It’s been a very difficult enterprise attempting to repower,” stated a wind farm supervisor from Kanniyakumari district, on situation of anonymity.  He stated, “It entails negotiations from a number of stakeholders and there must be extra readability. Additionally, TANGEDCO is but to pay us the debt it owes. We want monetary incentives to start repowering.” TANGEDCO owes a complete of Rs. 20,828 crores (Rs. 208 billion) to the electrical energy mills.

A further problem is that the repowered generators would require stronger evacuation services. Energy evacuation is a facility that permits the electrical energy generated, to be transferred to the grid from the turbine. These services should be upgraded if particular person generators with 1MW, 2MW or 3MW capacities are put in. “TANGEDCO should increase the evacuation facility and the grid,” stated Giri whereas including that “If the state augments the grid, it will likely be doubling the vitality manufacturing; it will likely be like a multiplier impact.”

Whereas possession and technical upgrades are two major challenges, the tariff construction lacks readability too. The extra vitality produced after repowering requires heavy funding in expertise. The wind vitality builders query if the identical tariffs can be utilized by the distribution firms (discoms). In 2019, the Indian Wind Energy Affiliation in 2019 had said, “The Tariff charges for Repowering need to be fastened previous to the announcement of the Repowering Coverage.” The Nationwide Tariff Coverage of 2016 recognised this extra funding required and even really helpful a multi-year-tariff coverage.

This mismatch in tariff necessities between stakeholders, the central and state governments, requires negotiation talks and a transparent repowering coverage by the state that solutions tariff-related questions.

Optimising utilization of land and increasing the lifetime of windfarms

Based on TANGEDCO, the land footprint required by 2050 for renewable vitality initiatives is 318.2 million hectares. Though wind is just one part of the renewable vitality basket, the sector should take word that ‘land’ is a restricted useful resource. In different components of the nation, land conflicts attributable to large renewable vitality initiatives have already develop into a standard function.

“The one factor we can not create is land. Land is a nationwide asset, and we have to maximise the potential of the out there land earlier than buying new land,” Giri instructed Mongabay-India.

Throughout Mongabay-India’s interactions with the native communities in Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanniyakumari, what got here out was that individuals have been conflicted about the usage of widespread lands and agricultural lands. Though they’re glad in regards to the jobs generated for the youth of the area, they mourn the lack of agriculture and pastoralism within the area, as lands have been bought off for wind farms when the land value appreciated.

Repowering current wind farms, earlier than buying new lands won’t add to the concern of the residents in these districts. Repowering has a monetary profit too, compared to buying new lands for wind farms. “The price of dismantling and disposal of previous generators is much less in comparison with the price of land and evacuation and so in truth making use of the feed in tariff of latest machines to the repowered WEGs could also be advantageous to the mills,” stated the TNERC assertion.

Rust visible on wind turbines along the Tirunelveli-Kanyakumari state highway road in Aralvaimozhi, Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu. Aralvaimozhi is located in the foothills of Western Ghats and it houses one of Asia's largest wind farms. Photo by Narayana Swamy Subbaraman/Mongabay.
Rust seen on wind generators alongside the Tirunelveli-Kanyakumari state freeway highway in Aralvaimozhi, Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu. Aralvaimozhi is situated within the foothills of Western Ghats and it homes considered one of Asia’s largest wind farms. Picture by Narayana Swamy Subbaraman/Mongabay.

Learn extra: Conserving biodiversity as wind farms increase in Tamil Nadu


The place will the previous wind generators go?

One of many necessary questions that should be addressed when repowering begins full-fledged is ‘What occurs to the previous generators?’.

Rajenthiran and Balakrishnan G.R. from the wind firm Siemens Gamesa emphasised that their firm is fascinated by repowering their previous generators too. They said that if the insurance policies are in place, recycling previous wind generators could be very a lot possible. “Many of the elements of a turbine will be recycled. Think about the blades changing into shelters for bicycle stands. European international locations have a number of case research for profitable recycling of wind generators, and we’re on the prepared, to implement recycling plans if repowering begins/ is made necessary,” they instructed Mongabay-India. The corporate is already pioneering in recycling turbine components. It has produced recyclable blades at Siemens Gamesa’s blade manufacturing plant in Denmark.

An interdisciplinary analysis group known as The Re-Wind Community, have began repurposing previous wind turbine blades as public utility architectural components like bike shelters, footbridges and skate parks.

Whether or not all wind firms can come ahead to recycle and whether or not they have the funds and infrastructure to recycle, are different questions that have to be answered by the businesses. The previous generators can not go to landfills, as they’ve electrical and different non-biodegradable elements. The European market is experimenting with mechanical, thermal and chemical recycling strategies, every with its personal professionals and cons. For firms in India to take up recycling and for it to be viable for them, tips and insurance policies have to be applied. However there isn’t a coverage but on disposing or recycling clear energy-related waste.

A single blade of a wind turbine at a windfarm in Thoothukudi district. Photo by Narayana Swamy Subbraman/Mongabay.
A single blade of a wind turbine at a wind farm in Thoothukudi district. Picture by Narayana Swamy Subbraman/Mongabay.

The necessity to assess biodiversity impacts at repowered wind websites

Whereas research on biodiversity impacts of wind farms are missing in India, there are not any research/comparative research of biodiversity impacts in an previous wind farm versus a repowered wind farm within the nation, as repowering in necessary wind websites is but to start. Mitigating the biodiversity impacts of wind farms is crucial as a result of the problem of local weather change can’t be checked out as impartial from biodiversity loss, as said by the Intergovernmental Panel on Local weather Change (IPCC) in its newest Evaluation Report.

Relating to repowering and biodiversity, T. Ganesh, Senior Fellow from the Ashoka Belief for Analysis in Setting and Ecology (ATREE), stated, “When the peak of generators enhance, it will probably have impacts on excessive flying birds like storks and huge raptors.”

“We have to conduct a correct research. And as for the situation of those windmills, we should always attempt to prioritise areas the place there may be much less focus of biodiversity or much less focus of necessary birds/animals. The situation evaluation and correct biodiversity influence assessments should be completed as a result of we don’t have this information in India,” Ganesh instructed Mongabay-India.

The state has many points to sort out with respect to repowering, however to unravel the preliminary subject of land possession fragmentation, Giri means that the turbine house owners come collectively to kind a cooperative or a Restricted firm, the place the land can be the fairness and the house owners can develop into shareholders. “A cooperative mannequin for repowering can be one of the simplest ways to maneuver ahead,” stated Giri.

Portray an image of what the long run would appear like if Tamil Nadu realises repowering, he stated, “Within the first shutter we will take a look at generators which have crossed 20 years and within the second, we will take a look at those which have crossed 15 years. At one level, solely high-capacity generators can be left. We might have optimised land utilization. A mini windfarm may energy factories or residential townships.”

A 2021 research that checked out an summary of wind vitality growth and coverage initiatives in India really helpful that coordinated efforts between the Centre and the state could push repowering actions.

Queries despatched by Mongabay-India to Tamil Nadu authorities’s vitality division to grasp the current steps taken for repowering stay unanswered on the time of publishing.


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Banner picture: A non-public wind farm in Radhapuram, Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu. Picture by Narayana Swamy Subbraman/Mongabay.



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