Rising above the electricity-related challenges that have hounded the country for decades, India is now said to have the fifth-largest power generation portfolio and is regarded the fifth largest wind energy producer in the world. As a response to the observed electricity supply shortage in India, feared to worsen as months of peak consumption draw near, power generation from renewable sources are currently being maximized and optimized to support the country’s permanent traditional energy facilities. In 2013, for example, the share of renewable power in India’s total energy mix stood at 12.3%, up from 7.8% in 2012. Wind power accounted for the lion’s share of the renewable energy generation figure, at 68% and an installed capacity of 19.1 GW.
Recognizing the merits of harnessing the potential of renewable energy sources, the government of India has launched various initiatives to encourage efforts to transition from fossil-based energy options, including offering tax holidays and generation-based incentives or GBIs. The benefits of renewable energy sources are gradually being recognized by different sectors of society, and as the government opened renewable energy projects to foreign and local venture and investment, alternative power generation technologies are seen to have a bright roadmap ahead.
Though renewable energy sources are seeing much support from the government, citizens and investors alike, energy industry professionals observe that renewable technologies have so much more potential to be developed. First, at the policy level, experts suggest the fortification of renewable purchase obligations (RPOs) to drive the demand for electricity from renewable energy sources. They are also advocating a more intense motivation to construct power transmission infrastructure, so more electricity generated by alternative energy sources reaches the grid.
At the technology level, renewable power sources have much room to be enhanced. As we speak, research and development efforts are being taken to improve on their performance predictability and dependability, despite the fact that their “fuels” (such as water, wind or sunlight) depend on natural conditions, which could not be controlled or completely projected.
As renewable technologies are being planned, constructed or augmented, and are still in diffusion to more communities and industrial areas in India, other alternative technologies can supplement them, bridging the gap in power supply and electricity demand. It has been documented that a 50 MW wind farm, for example, can be built in six months, and if one factors in the time needed for planning, designing, and receiving necessary approvals and permits, a wind farm may be operational after only a year or so. During the months when wind farms (or any other renewable energy facility for that matter) are not yet operational, mobile generator sets have the capacity to temporarily provide power to the communities planned to be beneficiaries of renewable energy.
Temporary generators are cost-effective immediate solution to power supply shortages and instability, which do not require a huge initial capital to acquire and install. Because rental gensets are modular and flexible, interim power stations can be installed in most places where renewable energy facilities find applications. Owing to their adaptive configuration, temporary gensets can be easily installed and commissioned, and can be run in as little time as a few days. Additionally, as they are containerized and have relatively small dimensions, mobile generators can be delivered from any point in the world to another.
With the support of temporary power plants, the perceived limitations of renewable sources of energy can be surmounted, and the deficit in supply of power can be filled. As renewable facilities ramp up their reliability and predictability, interim power stations can provide a viable and sustainable supply of power when needed and as needed by communities and industrial facilities in India. Alternative power sources, when enhanced and properly utilized, have the capacity to support permanent traditional sources of electricity to avoid further energy outages and load shedding, and to extend the coverage of the electricity supply even to the most remote communities and industries in India.
*The foregoing article was originally published in the September 2014 issue of The Energy Outlook, India.*
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