Indian hubs cut costs for global wind turbine makers

August 19, 2011
Wind power map of India

Chennai, the hot and sultry capital of the Southern state of Tamilnadu in India has long been the epicenter of the Indian wind turbine industry.

The Centre for Wind Energy Technology (C-WET) of the Ministry Of Renewable Energy, the regulator is headquartered at Chennai and deals with all licensing and policy matters besides helping develop data for setting up wind farms.

It not only approves the manufacturing units that can set up plants in India but also tests and certifies the models that can be run in the wind farms. Unlike China, which has hundreds of 49.5 megawatt (MW) or smaller units which are outside the purview of the China's National Energy Bureau, India's wind energy sector is closely regulated with less than two dozen approved manufacturers and every project individually cleared.

However, it is not only the presence of the regulator or the long coastal belt conducive to wind farms that cause the major manufacturers set up their production units in the southern state of Tamilnadu. The state is also the home to the manufacturing and the component sector of the automobile, textile, energy and the computer industry.

Foreign manufacturing heavyweights from Switzerland, Germany, US, Japan and Korea compete with large and medium Indian private sector units to provide a good mix of quality and volume.

The wind farm majors take advantage of this high quality infrastructure and skilled manpower availability in the industrial estates of Chennai, Coimbatore, Trichy, Hosur and Mangalore to set up their own manufacturing plants.

RE Power AG of Germany, now owned by India's Suzlon Energy, plans to open an export oriented unit at Mangalore for its 2MW turbines catering to the markets of US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil.

Whereas the rotor blades will be manufactured at Mangalore, the generators and control systems will be sourced from nearby Coimbatore. The gear box will be sourced from Belgium's Hansen Transmission plant at Coimbatore.

Hansen set up a fully integrated 65,000-square-meter manufacturing unit in the Coimbatore SEZ in 2008 to manufacture 1500 to 2000 units of heavy duty gear boxes per annum suitable for wind turbines of 1.5 MW to 3 MW.

The area already had several large and well established gear box manufacturers like Shanti Gears and MM Gears, and a dependable ancillary base of casting suppliers and forging and machining units.

The Southern manufacturing hub also has several other plants of Suzlon making rotor blades, nacelles, nacelle covers, nose cones, braking systems and towers besides production units of other turbine manufacturers like Vestas of Denmark, Gamesa of Spain, and Enercon of Germany.

Another vibrant manufacturing hub for wind turbine makers is in the western coastal state of Gujarat known for its investor friendly policy and industrial prowess.

The state has a unique 20-year power purchase policy agreement for wind farms at a rate of Rs 3.5 (USD0.0788) per unit of power and a reputation for paying power producers on time unlike Tamilnadu where arrears of over 6 months are hurting the wind farms.