Wind power projects push land costs sky-high

Helped by state government concessions, Tamil Nadu is all set to expand its wind forms and become the country's premier wind-energy centre.

By S Gopikrishna Warrier
Published: Thursday 15 April 1993

Sentinels of change: Sleek win (Credit: TEDA)THE TAMIL Nadu government's decision to encourage private industries to set up wind turbines has received a good response and with an increasing number of industries rushing to buy land, prices, have boomed in the two areas developed for wind farming - Muppandal in Kanniya-kumari di'strict and Kayattar in Chidambaranar district.

Tamil Nadu generates the highest amount of electricity from wind energy and has an installed capacity of 25 MW, of which 7.5 MW is generated by wind farms run by 18 private firms. This year alone about 20 MW is expected to be added by private wind farms. The state government' has projected an increase to 150 MW of installed capacity of wind power during the Eighth Plan, with the private sector contributing half the power.

The state has moved ahead in wind energy generation mainly because all of Tamil Nadu is served by one power grid. Hence, power generated by a firm in Kayattar or Muppandal and fed into the state grid can be withdrawn by the firm and supplied to its factory located elsewhere. This makes it worthwhile for industries to invest in wind energy turbines at faraway sites. Says K Suresh, materials manager at Tee Estates, Coonoor, "The facility offered by the state grid for wheeling and banking has been a great help."

Following the recent budget announcement of a five-year tax holiday on profits from private sector power units, this sector is expected to increase its involvement in nonconventional energy generation even more. Wind energy companies can write off their entire investment in the first year itself.

Union minister for non-conventional energy sources S Krishna Kumar, announced in Madras recently that a massive plan for non-conventional energy source development is on the anvil and World Bank assistance of US $200 million is likely to come through for the entire project.

Because wind farms need adequate wind velocity, all activity at present is concentrated at Muppandal and Kayattar, two of the three areas in the state with adequate wind velocity. All three benefits from high-velocity, wasterly winds blowing through three narrow gaps in the Western Ghats. But, as V Krishnamurthi, a senior Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency official, said, "It is only at Muppandal and Kayattar that infrastructural facilities are available."

Land prices are soaring in the wake of the government decision. Says R Velusamy, special officer for wind energy development with the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, "Land that cost about Rs 15,000 per hectare in 1987-88, when TNEB started its work on wind energy, now costs more than Rs 125,000 at Muppandal. In Kayattar, the price has risen. from Rs 74.70 to Rs 1,494 per hectare."

Muppandal land fetches higher westerly winds prices because the wind potential here is greater. S Subramaniam, hccounts manager of Atlanta Foods, disclosed his company paid Rs 70,000 to buy about half a hectare in Muppandal to install a wind generator.

Private industries in Tamil Nadu see happy days ahead and South India Viscose, one of the state's major companies, has plans for a gradual increase in electricity production to 10 MW. Obviously. Hard-pressed TNEB is not complaining either.

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