India’s Wind Potential Is Big, But Incentives Aren’t

In its 2011 International Energy Outlook [PDF], the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated that global energy consumption would grow by 53 percent from 2008 to 2035, with about half of that demand coming from rapidly developing economies like China and India.

But developing countries have also been notorious for using dirty electricity, power derived primarily from coal. In the same report, the EIA estimated that 80 percent of new generation capacity would be derived from coal, 75 percent of which would come from China. As a result, carbon emissions could jump as much as 43 percent from 2008 levels by 2035.

image via Berkeley Lab

But the booming economies of China and India also open a window for renewable energy. A recent assessment by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that India is uniquely poised to develop wind power with rich wind resources that are 20 to 30 times greater than the 102 gigawatts (GW) that the country’s government currently estimates is potentially available from onshore generation.

“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,” Berkeley Lab scientist Amol Phadke, the lead author of the report, said in a statement. “The cost of wind power is now comparable to that from imported coal and natural gas-based plants.”

The study found that India’s wind potential could range from 2,006 to 3,121 GW, depending on the size of the turbines deployed, a number that could allow wind to make up a significant portion of the country’s future energy portfolio. More than 95 perecent of India’s wind potential is concentrated in five states in the south and western regions of the country.

Shifra Mincer is a freelance journalist and passionate tweeter (@Shiframincer) currently living in Israel. Before moving to Israel to apprentice with a homebirth midwife, Shifra worked as Associate Editor of AOL Energy, and was a member of the launch team that got the site up and running. Shifra has over a half a decade of experience in journalism and has written on women's health, green technology, politics and regulation of the energy industry, energy financial news, and local news. While studying for her B.A. at Harvard College, Shifra worked as a news editor for the Harvard Crimson. Shifra is also a yoga teacher and a birth doula and is hoping to create an active Jewish birth community through her web venture www.layda.org.