Clean Power

Published on March 22nd, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


New Study: India Wind Energy Potential 20-30 Times Greater than Official Estimates

March 22nd, 2012 by  

India is known for having a ton of solar energy potential, but a new study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL) shows that it also has a ton of wind energy potential, much more than previously thought.

The study found that India has 20-30 times more onshore wind energy potential than the official Indian estimate. This is important, since the official estimate of 102 GW would only be able to provide India with up to 8% of its projected electricity demand by 2022 and 5% by 2032, and since wind is a super-cheap form of energy.

“The new Berkeley Lab study has found the total techno-economic wind potential to range from 2,006 GW for 80-meter hub heights (an indication of how high the wind turbine stands above the ground) to 3,121 GW for 120-meter hub heights,” an LBL news release states.

wind energy india

"More than 95 percent of the wind potential is concentrated in five states in southern and western India."

This new finding could have a strong effect on India’s renewable energy strategy. The country, as is well known, has a tremendous electricity shortage. As stated many times here on CleanTechnica, the good thing about that is that India (and other less-developed countries) can leapfrog outdated dirty energy technologies and jump right into clean energy, especially from the wind and sun. India has realized that, and it led the world in cleantech investment growth in 2011.

In my 2012 solar expectations post at the beginning of the year, I noted that India “has tremendous solar power goals…, solar is now cheaper than diesel there, and many are projecting that it will become a big solar player soon, perhaps in 2012.” But wind is exceedingly cheap as well, and this news opens up a whole new energy ball game.

“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,” says Berkeley Lab scientist Amol Phadke, the lead author of the report.

“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.”

Jayant Sathaye, who leads the International Energy Studies Group at Berkeley Lab, state: “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.”

Why the reassessment of India wind energy potential?

Due to recently updated wind energy potential assessments for the U.S. and China, which saw a 50% and a 10-fold increase in wind energy potential in those nations, respectively, LBL thought it would be a good idea to use the new parameters and assumptions to evaluate India’s wind potential. But I don’t think anyone was expecting such a large jump.

“Improved wind technology, including higher efficiency and hub heights, accounted for much of the increase along with more advanced mapping techniques,” LBL states.

For more information on the study, check out the LBL news release or its “Reassessing Wind Potential Estimates for India: Economic and Policy Implications” report.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • The Indian government estimates were based on 50 year old studies at hub height of 50 meters. I doubt any company makes wind turbines with hub height of 50 meters these days. Tamil Nadu, the state with the highest wind power installed capacity in India, has already surpassed the old estimated potential. The Indian government too has now raised the wind energy potential after making measurements at 80 meters. Another crucial development last year was that the government allowed developers to set up projects at sites with relatively lower wind potential due to the vastly improved technology. This has opened up vast areas for expansion of the most trusted renewable energy resource in India.

    • Bob_Wallace

      If you know, is the price of wind-electricity stored in utility scale batteries or pump-up hydro approaching the cost of fuel for diesel generators?

      • My knowledge of renewable energy is restricted largely to India only. To my knowledge there are no large-scale renewable energy projects using battery storage in India. However, I did come across a news story few weeks back which claimed that solar power in India is now cheaper than electricity for diesel generators.

        • yeah, we wrote on that in Dec:

          solar seems to be where the most potential lies for India,.. but this new wind study is pretty exciting (at least for showing us what’s possible better than that 5-year-old study you mentioned) — they are such a good match.

        • Bob_Wallace

          My question was about India.

          Because India needs to create a lot of new capacity it’s in the position to look ahead and do what it “best”. I suppose I’m interested in knowing whether some people in India are looking carefully at how they might design their grid that would give it the largest leap forward possible.

          There’s no reason to repeat the evolutionary steps other countries have taken. Just as with wide adoption of cell phones, a country building massive new infrastructure can jump ahead to what will gradually appear in more developed countries.

          Here, in the US, we need little to no new generation. Efficient use may, in fact, leave us with more capacity than we need. (Except that the extra is likely to be taken up by EVs.)

          That means, for the most part, we have to find justification for closing still-working plants as we bring clean generation on board.

          • Ok, so there’s no activity in the large-scale battery storage sector in India, that I’m aware of. In order to integrate the large renewable energy capacities coming up, the government recently announced stricter power generation forecasting and grid injection regulations. These regulations penalize generators if they fail to forecast the power generation with a certain level of confidence (which is fairly high).

            Also, the government will invest $80 million in 8 smart grid pilot projects. They are collaborating with foreign governments in this regard.

            I agree that US needs to considerably improve on energy efficiency, especially on the demand side.

    • Thanks for the note. 😀

      What’s up with you these days? Finished engineering school? Shoot me an email sometime. 😀

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