Article

Wind energy moves into developing nations

Wind power may still have an image as something of a plaything of environmentalists more concerned with clean energy than saving money. But it is quickly emerging as a serious alternative not just in affluent areas of the world, but in fast-growing countries such as India and China that are avidly seeking new energy sources. And leading the charge here in west-central India and elsewhere is an unlikely champion, Suzlon Energy, a homegrown Indian company.

xxx

Scott Eells, The New York Times
Tax incentives and costly fossil fuels have helped wind energy gain momentum in developing nations – and change rural scenery. Antosh Tila Patil plows a field with his son, Dilip Pantosh, near Dhulia, India.

Surging demand for clean, inexpensive power fuels growth of Suzlon Energy.

KHORI, India — Dilip Pantosh Patil uses an ox-drawn wooden plow to till the same land as his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. But now he has a new neighbor: a shiny white wind turbine taller than a 20-story building, generating electricity at the edge of his bean field.

Wind power may still have an image as something of a plaything of environmentalists more concerned with clean energy than saving money. But it is quickly emerging as a serious alternative not just in affluent areas of the world, but in fast-growing countries such as India and China that are avidly seeking new energy sources. And leading the charge here in west-central India and elsewhere is an unlikely champion, Suzlon Energy, a homegrown Indian company.

Suzlon already dominates the Indian market and is expanding rapidly abroad, having erected factories in locations as far away... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

xxx

Scott Eells, The New York Times
Tax incentives and costly fossil fuels have helped wind energy gain momentum in developing nations – and change rural scenery. Antosh Tila Patil plows a field with his son, Dilip Pantosh, near Dhulia, India. 

Surging demand for clean, inexpensive power fuels growth of Suzlon Energy.

KHORI, India — Dilip Pantosh Patil uses an ox-drawn wooden plow to till the same land as his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. But now he has a new neighbor: a shiny white wind turbine taller than a 20-story building, generating electricity at the edge of his bean field.

Wind power may still have an image as something of a plaything of environmentalists more concerned with clean energy than saving money. But it is quickly emerging as a serious alternative not just in affluent areas of the world, but in fast-growing countries such as India and China that are avidly seeking new energy sources. And leading the charge here in west-central India and elsewhere is an unlikely champion, Suzlon Energy, a homegrown Indian company.

Suzlon already dominates the Indian market and is expanding rapidly abroad, having erected factories in locations as far away as Pipestone, Minn., and Tianjin, China. Four-fifths of Suzlon's orders now come from outside India.

Not even on the list of the world's top 10 wind-turbine manufacturers as recently as 2002, Suzlon passed Siemens of Germany last year to become the fifth-largest producer by installed megawatts of capacity. It still trails the market leader, Vestas Wind Systems of Denmark, as well as General Electric, Enercon of Germany and Gamesa Tecnológica of Spain.

Suzlon's past shows how a company can prosper by tackling the special needs of a developing country. Its present suggests a way of serving expanding energy needs without relying quite so much on coal, the fastest-growing fossil fuel now but also the most polluting.

And Suzlon's future is likely to be a case study of how a manufacturer copes with China, both in capturing sales there and in confronting competition from Chinese companies.

Suzlon is an outgrowth in many ways of India's dysfunctional power-distribution system. Electricity boards owned by state governments charge industrial users more than twice as much for each kilowatt-hour as such customers pay in the United States — and they still suffer blackouts almost every day, especially in northern India.

Subject to political pressures, the boards are often slow to collect payments from residential consumers and well-connected businesses, especially before elections. As a result, they often lack the money to invest in new equipment.

To stay open and prevent crucial industrial or computer processes from stopping, a wide range of businesses — including auto parts factories and outsourcing giants — rely on still more costly diesel generators.

With natural gas prices climbing as well, wind turbines have become attractive to Indian businesses. The Essar Group of Mumbai, a big industrial conglomerate active in shipping, steel and construction, is working on plans for a wind farm near Chennai, formerly Madras, after concluding that regulatory changes in India have made it financially attractive.

Roughly 70 percent of the demand for wind turbines in India comes from industrial users seeking alternatives to conventional energy sources, said Tulsi Tanti, Suzlon's managing director. The rest of the purchases are made by a small group of wealthy families in India for whom the tax breaks for wind turbines are attractive.


Staying competitive


Wind will remain competitive as long as the price of crude oil remains above $40 a barrel, Tanti estimated. To remain cost-effective below $40 a barrel, wind energy may require subsidies, or possibly carbon-based taxes on oil and other fossil fuels.

Tanti and his three younger brothers were running a textile business in Gujarat, in northwestern India, when they bought a German wind turbine — only to find that they could not keep it running. So they decided to build and maintain turbines themselves, starting Suzlon in 1995 and later leaving the textile business.

To minimize land costs, wind farms are typically in rural areas, chosen for the strength of the wind there as well as low prices for land. But that can mean culture shock.

"There were no big changes until the turbines came," Patil said, pausing from plowing here with his father in this remote, hilly, tribal area 200 miles northeast of Mumbai, formerly Bombay, where oxen remain at the center of farm life and motorized vehicles are uncommon.

Doing business in rural areas of the developing world carries special challenges. The new Suzlon Energy wind farm in Khori is a subject of national pride. More than 300 giant wind turbines, with 110-foot blades, snatch electricity from the air. But it also has struggled with the sporadic lawlessness that has long bedeviled India.

S. Mohammed Farook, the installation's manager, was far from happy one recent afternoon. At least 63 new turbines, worth $1.3 million apiece and each capable of lighting several thousand homes when the wind blows, could not be put into service because thieves had stolen their copper power cables and aluminum service ladders for sale as scrap.

The copper or aluminum fetches as little as $1 from black-market scrap dealers. But each repair costs thousands of dollars in parts and staff time, in a country that is desperately short of electricity and technicians.

"I am crying inside," Farook said.

Despite such problems, Suzlon has expanded rapidly as global demand for wind energy has taken off. Its sales and earnings tripled in the quarter that ended June 30, as the company earned the equivalent of $41.6 million on sales of $202.4 million.

The demand for wind turbines has particularly accelerated in India, where installations rose nearly 48 percent last year, and in China, where they rose 65 percent, although from a lower base. Wind farms are starting to dot the coastline of east-central China and the southern tip of India, as well as scattered mesas and hills across central India and even Inner Mongolia.

Coal is the main alternative in the two countries, and it is causing acid rain and respiratory ailments while contributing to global warming. China accounted for 79 percent of the world's growth in coal consumption last year and India used 7 percent more, according to statistics from BP.


Reliance on coal


Worried by its reliance on coal, China requires power companies to generate a fifth of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. This target calls for expanding wind power almost as much as nuclear energy over the next 15 years. India already leads China in wind power and is quickly building more wind turbines.

Chinese and Indian officials are optimistic about relying much more heavily on wind.

"I believe we may break through these targets — if not, we should at least have no problem reaching them," said Zhang Yuan, vice general manager of the China Longyuan Electric Power Group, the renewable-energy arm of one of China's five state-owned electric utilities, China Guodian.

Kamal Nath, India's minister of commerce and industry, was even more enthusiastic.

"India is ideally suited for wind energy," he said.

"The cost of it works well, and we have the manufacturing capability."

International experts are more skeptical that wind will displace coal to a considerable extent, saying that though electricity production from wind is likely to increase rapidly, the sheer scale of energy demands suggests that coal burning will expand even more.

Suzlon still sees plenty of opportunity in China and has decided to build some of its latest designs for the market there, despite the risk of having them copied by Chinese manufacturers.

"Being an Asian leader," Tanti said, "we cannot afford to ignore China."

A dozen Chinese manufacturers have jumped into wind-turbine manufacturing as well. They have struggled with quality problems and have limited production capacity so far, resulting in long delivery delays.

 


Source: http://www.statesman.com/bu...

OCT 1 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/4959-wind-energy-moves-into-developing-nations
back to top