Wind is an important source of non-conventional energy which is cheap, pollution-free, environment friendly and can be developed away from the sources of conventional energy. This energy was utilised in sailing ships and wind mills since ancient days.
In India the generation of electric power through wind mills started in 1950 and by March 1993 about 2,900 wind pump sets has been installed in seven states of the country. At the beginning of the Eighth Plan the installed capacity of wind-based power generation was a mere 40 MW. This was raised to 900 MW by the end of the Eighth Plan and in the first year of the Ninth Plan (1997-98) another 70 M W has been created. Also, for the first time during 1997-98 India has exported a wind turbine and that too to Australia.
The total potential for wind energy in the country is estimated to be 20,000 mw. This estimate is based on the technology available during the mid- 80s. It is being reassessed in the light of new generation of wind electric generators, higher unit sizes and increased hub-heights. A wind speed above 10 km per hour is prevalent over parts of coastal region and on the river banks in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka. Wind mills can be operated there to harness wind energy.
The present wind energy programme is aimed at the development of cost-efficient technology for harnessing the vast wind potential in the country. Wind survey projects are under various stages of implementation in 22 states of the country. Establishment of470 wind stations have been undertaken. Of these 251 stations have become operational in 13 states as on March 1992.
The Central Government is considering the World Bank Master Plan to create wind power plants of 640 mw in Andhra Pradesh and 700 mw in Tamil Nadu. Asia’s largest wind farm of 28 mw capacity is located at Lamba in Gujarat. Commercial projects of 920 mw capacity have been set up by the end of March 1998 mainly in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. Over 950 million units have been fed during 1997-98 to the grids taking the cumulative generation from commercial projects to 2.46 billion units.
Tamil Nadu has the largest installation of wind turbines in the country in the Muppandal-Perungudi area near Kanniyakumari with an aggregate capacity of 380 mw. This is one of the largest concentrations of wind farm capacity at a single location anywhere in the world.
Among the promoters of wind power generation, NEPC-Micon Ltd. has done well in the manufacture and installation of wind turbines. It has installed 20.5 mw of winds farms which includes 8.99 mw for private sector. A 10 mw wind farm has been installed in Tamil Nadu. Electricity Board has set up 6 mw plants at Kayathar and a four mw farm at Muphandal. In the private sector, a 3.25 mw wind farm has been installed at Kayathar and a 1.5 mw farm at Kathaadimalal in Tamil Nadu. The progress in wind power generation has earned for the country recognition as “Wind Superpower” in the State of the World 1998 Report of the World watch Institute.
A notable feature of the wind power programme is the increasing interest evinced by private investors/developers in setting up commercial wind power projects. The IREDA provides soft loans and international credit is available under the World Bank line of credit, DANIDA mixed credit and ADB line of credit. Fourteen companies with 80 per cent indigenisation are engaged in the production of wind turbines of unit sizes up to 600 km.
The MNES has set up a committee to identify the thrust areas for R and D and technology development in the field of wind energy. A Centre for Wind Energy Technology (C-Wet) is being set up in Chennai, along with a Wind Turbine Test Station at Kayathar (Tamil Nadu) with DANIDA assistance. The Wind Energy Estates are being set up in the joint sector or in private sector. One such joint venture has come up in Madhya Pradesh with MP Wind farms Ltd. in 1995.