A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the US Department of Energy national lab in California, has found that India has a much greater potential for wind energy than previously thought. The report estimates that there might be 20 to 30 times more on-shore wind energy than the Indian government currently estimates.

Existing estimates are that India could produce 102 gigawatts of energy from wind, but the Berkeley Lab report indicates that figure could be between 2006 GW for 80 m turbines and 3121 GW for 120 m turbines. Fully developed, this would allow wind to play a major role in supplying India’s increasing energy demands.

If fully developed, the new estimates would allow wind to play a major role in supplying India's increasing energy demands.Reuters

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 team has been in discussion with Indian government agencies, says Jayant Sathaye, who leads the International Energy Studies Group at Berkeley Lab:

“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.”

The reassessment of India’s wind power opportunity came after it was found that both the United States and China had much more wind power available than previously thought. Part of the increase comes from improvements in wind turbine efficiency and the rest from better wind mapping techniques.

The Berkeley Lab report systematically assessed the amount of land actually available and suitable for wind power development. They discovered that a lot more land could be developed than the two percent previously assumed. Says the lab:

The study excluded land with low-quality wind, slopes greater than 20 degrees, elevation greater than 1,500 meters and certain other unsuitable areas such as forests, bodies of water and cities. The researchers obtained off-the-shelf wind speed data for heights of 80 meters, 100 meters and 120 meters from 3TIER.

The study also finds that the total footprint required to develop high-quality wind energy (that is, wind turbines at 80 meters with a capacity factor greater than 25 percent, which would yield a potential of about 543 GW in India) is approximately 1,629 square kilometers, or 0.05 percent of the total land area in India. The footprint is not large because, typically, only about 3 percent of a wind farm is occupied by the wind turbines and related infrastructure; the rest of the land can be used for other purposes.

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

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