Roadmap to Small Wind Turbines in India
Small Wind Turbine Technology Opportunities in India
A modern small wind turbine can be incorporated with aerospace technologies with sophisticated, yet simple, designs that allow them to operate reliably for up to a decade or longer without maintenance. These systems can operate for extended periods without attention; with only a few moving parts, which typically require inspection only every two years during their 20 to 30 year design life. The small wind turbines are very competitive with other renewable energy technologies that are suitable for homes, farms, and small businesses. Small wind systems, for example, cost less than half the price of comparable photovoltaic systems i.e. the installed cost of small wind power system is around Rs. 125/Watt in comparison to installed cost of PV which is Rs. 250/Watt.
In case the local markets respond actively, the small wind turbine technology can adopt advanced component technologies and state-of-the-art design tools such as three-dimensional solid modeling and computational fluid dynamics. Technologies such as unique high-efficiency airfoils, neodymium-iron-boron "super-magnet" generators, pultruded FRP blades, graphite-filled injection molded plastic blades, special purpose power electronics, and tilt-up tower designs will throw twin benefits i.e. lowered costs and increased efficiency.
There is an urgent need to coin a long-term vision of the Indian industry to produce small wind turbines that are accepted as common household appliances in the same way that Invertors and air-conditioning systems are today. By virtue of their compelling economics, these new turbines can achieve high market penetration especially in areas with lower housing densities and sufficient wind resources.
We all need to realize that large wind turbines are now in their seventh or eighth generation of technology development, while small wind turbines are yet to evolve commercially in India. Achieving these goals will require continuous advances in small wind turbine technology, progressive improvements in small turbine manufacturing, and efficient installation techniques.
For its part, the Indian industry should strive for an innovative and simple design so as to reduce the cost of electricity generated by small wind turbines in comparison to foreign small wind turbine suppliers. Globally, the installed cost of a typical 1 to 5-kW residential wind turbines is about Rs. 1.5 lakhs ($3,500) per kilowatt (smaller systems being relatively more expensive). These turbines produce about 1,200 kWh per year of electricity per kilowatt of capacity in an area with a sufficient wind resource. There is a need to bring down the installed cost to somewhere between Rs.50,000 – Rs.75,000 ($1,200 to $1,800 per kilowatt) with raised energy productivity level to 1,800 kWh per installed kilowatt. If these goals are met, the 30-year life cycle cost of energy will be in the range of Rs. 2 kWh ($0.04 to $0.05/kWh), which is lower than virtually all-residential electric tariffs in the country today.
To further enhance the attractiveness of small wind turbines to consumers, there is also a need for meaningful, appropriate, and cost-effective standards and a certification program for them. Appropriate standards need to be formulated for small wind turbines keeping in mind that the costs of owning a small wind turbine remains within the reach of a common man.
The engineering challenges presented by the interrelated disciplines of aerodynamics, structures, controls, electrical conversion, electronics, and corrosion prevention are formidable. This there is a need for adequate research cooperation between the private and public sectors to develop the small wind turbine technology indigenously.
To assist industry in addressing technology barriers, four models of Private and Public sector collaboration are proposed
- Research conducted at national laboratories such as C-WET, Chennai and universities with input from members of the industry.
- Applied research projects conducted at the facilities of small wind turbine companies with support from the government through competitive procurement.
- Applied research projects involving companies, universities, and national laboratories.
- Privately funded research and development.
The opportunities, which are likely to be presented by improved technology, can be achieved through the cooperative activities discussed in this roadmap for the small wind turbine industry. Work by industry members, research institutes, state and local governments, and MNES can help increase the contribution of small wind turbines to the electricity generation mix.