Can India reach 30GW offshore by 2030?

German utility RWE and India’s Tata Power Renewable Energy last month set up a partnership to look at developing offshore wind farms in India.


March 17, 2022

German utility RWE and India’s Tata Power Renewable Energy last month set up a partnership to look at developing offshore wind farms in India.

This is big news for a country that currently has no operational projects in its waters but an ambitious target of 30GW of offshore installations by 2030.

Sven Utermöhlen, CEO of offshore wind at RWE Renewables, said in the statement announcing the tie-up that India has “excellent wind resources” that “can help meet the country’s increasing energy demands”, which are expected to nearly double over the next 20 years.

Such resources include a large coastline of around 7,600km and offshore wind potential of 140GW by 2050, according to a report by the Facilitating Offshore Wind Energy in India (FOWIND) project and the European Union.

Indian states Tamil Nadu and Gujarat make up 71GW of that vast potential, and it is in these two states that RWE and Tata will begin conducting technical and commercial site assessments.

The firms’ collaboration follows the government’s recently-announced process to conduct detailed technical studies and set up a regulatory framework to establish the country’s first offshore auctions in those regions.

Utermöhlen added: “If clear regulations and an effective tender scheme are in place, we expect India’s offshore wind industry will gain a real momentum. And RWE wants to be part of this development.”

Slow growth

But momentum behind wind in India has been slow for some time, even while it has the fourth-largest installed onshore capacity globally of nearly 40GW.

Installations dropped off following the introduction of competitive auctions in 2017, and India was then severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic that hit in 2020. The wind industry suffered due to difficulties in supply chain logistics, import of raw materials, and movement of workers between states.

Offshore wind has failed to get off the starting line as it faces the same challenges as onshore wind, but also additional issues caused by a prolonged lack of financial support from the Indian government due to the expense of offshore wind compared to onshore wind and solar.

The upshot is there have been 17 planned offshore wind projects – both pilot and commercial sizes – that have not yet progressed, with uncertainty about when development will continue. None have reached construction stage.

Even so, the commitment by RWE and Tata to developing in India’s waters could show that the tide is turning. An RWE spokesperson told A Word About Wind that the government has “recently engaged the industry for its inputs”, which it said proves that there is government enthusiasm for offshore wind.

Such backing will be important as the country seeks to develop a localised offshore wind supply chain and infrastructure, including port and grid links.

Ambitious targets are important. However, these need to be backed by a credible roadmap that includes the buildout of related infrastructure.

RWE also said that it is important for the government to set up the structure of tenders and subsidy schemes “in a transparent and effective way before launching the process”.

The estimated cost per megawatt of an offshore wind turbine is currently up to three times more expensive than its onshore counterpart, according to a report by the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE). But this cost would fall during large commercial scale deployment, based on India’s strong base of onshore turbine manufacturing.

India has great offshore wind potential and big targets, but the government needs to back this up with the support mechanisms that firms like RWE and Tata are looking for. That is needed if India is to achieve anything like 30GW within seven-and-a-half years.

Related content