Grid issues haunt wind energy producers in Tamil Nadu

“No more in Tamil Nadu,” says Mr P.P. Gupta, folding his hands in resignation, “until grid issues are resolved.” For the Managing Director of Techno Electric & Engineering Company, the topic of transmission infrastructure in Tamil Nadu – a State in which the company has heavily invested – is always touchy. This is understandable, since Techno Electric lost 50 million units in generation due to “forced back-down”.

At the average price that the State-owned electricity utility, TANGEDCO, buys electricity Techno Electric’s loss is worth Rs 12 crore. Techno Electric has just commissioned a 101-MW wind farm in the State and if arrangements for evacuating the power are not made by the summer of next year, when the next wind season begins, the company would stand to lose more.

This is the backdrop against which Mr Gupta made the “no more in Tamil Nadu” comment and it is a pity because the company was willing to invest a lot more in the State. Tamil Nadu, with an installed wind power capacity of 6,300 MW, or about 40 per cent of the country’s capacity, has a preeminent position in the wind power industry and, despite the relentless competition from other States, remains the darling of investors. But clearly, the State is losing out because of want of evacuation lines.

Earlier, the Hong Kong-based CLP Holdings, a leading independent power producer (IPP) in India, said it cancelled a 50-MW expansion project in Tamil Nadu due to “heavy power evacuation issues”. Another IPP, Orient Green Power, initially wanted to add 300 MW of wind energy in Tamil Nadu, but pared its plan to 160 MW.

Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have become the new favourites of the wind power industry. Techno Electric wants to put up a 100 MW farm in Rajasthan. Mr Gupta reckons that in Rajasthan, a wind turbine would work at a plant load factor (PLF) of 22 per cent, compared with 25 in Tamil Nadu, but then the “tariff is better and the grid is excellent”.

“Plans are on to add wind power capacities in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and possibly Maharashtra in 2012-13,” Orient Green said recently. Tamil Nadu’s transmission utility, TANTRANSCO, is indeed on to a big plan to beef up the State infrastructure, but it has no money. It is currently passing the hat to several benefactors, including the National Clean Energy Fund of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency.

Even if the funding problem is solved, it will take at least two years for a robust transmission infrastructure to come up. But are there short term solutions? Apparently, yes.