It is gratifying to note that the government of India has announced signing of an initial agreement for setting up joint venture firm for setting up off shore wind power project in Gujarat. This is a very significant move of the government of India with far reaching implications for the better. But, it is surprising that such off shore wind power project has not been considered for Tamil Nadu.
With the domestic production of coal and natural gas falling short of national requirements and India now emerging as large importer of coal, crude oil and natural gas in the world, the fuel source for power projects has become a matter of great concern. Several power projects are now stranded due to want of natural gas and many power units are operating below capacity due to the coal stock position in the plant premises remaining at critical level. The price of such fuel are also subjected to frequent fluctuations creating an element of uncertainty in the economics of operating the thermal power projects.
Under the circumstances, it is now well recognised that India has to considerably use renewable energy as source of power generation. Government of India has fixed the target as around 20,000 MW of solar power by 2022 and considering the present progress in the solar power front, it is extremely doubtful as to whether such target would be achieved.
In such scenario, off shore wind power project represents an ideal and appropriate option for India. India is blessed with long coastal line of around 7500 KM covering several states, providing excellent opportunity for setting up off shore power projects.
Europe has already shown the way by building several off shore wind power projects with the present capacity of around 5500 MW already in operation. European Union has set the target of constructing off shore wind power projects of capacity one lakh megawatt in the next ten years and is forging ahead with this plan. The technology for the off shore power project is now well established and now only need to be appropriately schemed in tune with the Indian coastal conditions.
Off shore wind power projects offer several advantages compared to the on shore wind power projects. Apart from the fact that the wind speed in off shore is much higher , the availability of wind throughout the year is also assured. As against this, on shore wind power projects operate at optimum capacity levels hardly for four months in a year. The cost of off shore wind power project is likely to be one and half times more than that of on shore wind power project of same capacity . However, in view of the better wind speed and wind availability, the economics of off shore wind power project would be better.
In Gujarat state , government of India has now announced demonstration off shore wind power project of capacity of around 100 MW. While the concept of installing demonstration project is appropriate in view of lack of similar project in India so far, the government of India ought to have announced such demonstration project in Tamil Nadu also, which has appropriate coastal areas such as in Tuticorin. Since there may be variable coastal conditions in different locations, it is necessary to set up such demonstration plants in Tamil Nadu also to establish the design and operating parameters and set up larger capacity projects later on.
As a matter of fact, today there is greater need for off shore wind power projects in Tamil Nadu, which is passing through severe power shortage scenario compared to Gujarat state. There is little time to lose and Tamil Nadu should not be made to wait till the completion and commissioning of the demonstration project in Gujarat , for taking up off shore wind power project in the state.