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US study shows India wind to have 30 times more potential

“Landmark finding” to have significant impact on India’s renewable energy strategy

Wind power plants at Thar desert in Rajasthan, India
Wind power plants at Thar desert in Rajasthan, India

An assessment of wind energy in India has found that the potential for onshore wind energy deployment is far higher than officials estimated. The study from the US Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory concludes that India’s wind potential it is up to 30 times greater than the current government estimate of 102GW.

According to the study, the landmark finding may have significant impact on India’s renewable energy strategy as it attempts to cope with a massive and chronic shortage of electricity.

Berkeley Lab scientist Amol Phadke, the lead author of the report, said: “The main importance of this study, why it’s groundbreaking, is that wind is one of the most cost-effective and mature renewable energy sources commercially available in India, with an installed capacity of 15 GW and rising rapidly. The cost of wind power is now comparable to that from imported coal and natural gas-based plants, and wind can play a significant role in cost effectively addressing energy security and environmental concerns.”

The study states that more than 95 per cent of wind potential is concentrated in five states in southern and western India. Even if the previously estimated potential of 102GW is fully developed, wind would provide only about 8 percent of the projected electricity demand in 2022 and 5 percent in 2032.

The new Berkeley Lab study has found the total techno-economic wind potential to range from 2,006 GW for 80m hub heights (an indication of how high wind energy turbines can stands above the ground) to 3,121GW for 120m hub heights. Given these new estimates, the availability of wind energy can no longer be considered a constraint for wind to play a major role in India’s electricity future.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has said that Phadke and his team have been discussing their findings with several key government agencies in India and have gotten positive responses. The key agency in charge, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), has now signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Berkeley Lab to collaborate on several issues related to potential estimates and wind energy integration.