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Written by Thale Henrikke Eddie and Lucie Swinnerton

Eighteen thousand wind mills exist in India today, and the number is growing rapidly. This renewable energy source is spreading throughout the globe – Danish company, Vestas, installs a wind turbine every four hours; globally.

The Power of Wind

A disastrous cyclone hit South Gujarat in June 1998, destroying everything in its path. Thousands were killed. One-month prior, Vestas had begun wind energy projects in India. Two technicians and three security guards were working on their wind farm in the area that day, and saw the destructive winds heading towards them, recounts B.V. Rathod, an Area Service manager at Vestas’ farm in Devgarh. At 10:30am, as the storm drew closer, it became evident to the workers that their temporary office building was not going to survive the cyclone’s immense force. So they fled to the 350-tonne steel windmill. Hours went by, and the storm raged on. At 6pm, the tower could no longer stand up to the eye of the storm, and fell, fracturing into two pieces. Vestas’ brand new investment was completely destroyed by the violent storm. All five men survived, despite unconsciousness and a broken collarbone sustained by one worker. The Danish company was not deterred by this, and continues their involvement in India, currently having ten machines spread over the country. Plans for five thousand more mills are underway.

Status quo

Eighteen thousand wind mills exist in India today, and the number is growing rapidly. This renewable energy source is spreading throughout the globe – Danish company, Vestas, installs a wind turbine every four hours; globally.

Overall, nine percent of the total amount of energy produced in India today, comes from WTGs. India has progressed significantly since the mid 1980s and particularly in the past decade, and is now on par with nations such as Denmark and Germany, in terms of its ratio of renewable energy to non-renewable sources.

The majority of the WTGs are owned by international actors –thirty to forty companies currently own turbines in India, says Rathod. Whereas the UK, Denmark and Australia have legislation stipulating that corporations conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) prior to installation of mills; India does not have strict regulations in place. Wind farms in India have been built hastily without proper consideration for the environmental setting, resulting in less than maximum efficiency in production. In the case of Vestas’ location in Devgarh, Rajasthan, WTGs have been over-dimensioned for the conditions there. –The potential is to produce 10,000 kilowatt hours per day, but with the low wind capacity and air density, they are rarely able to reach this target. Smaller machines would increase the efficiency of the farm, Rathod says. Government-owned smaller machines run effectively nearby.

The future of wind

A 350-tonne Wind Turbine Generator, at Vestas’ wind farm in Devgarh, Rajasthan. This has the capacity to produce 10,000 kilowatt hours of energy per day. Photo: Julie Ness

Wind energy represents a benign fuel alternative. Farms produce no water or noise pollution, and no CO2 emissions because fuel is not burned. Nevertheless, if WTGs are to satisfy global energy consumption, a myriad of machines is necessary. Whilst 10,000 kilowatt hours of energy per day is sufficient to supply the entire city of Pratapgargh, India, estimates are that this would only sustain approximately one average Norwegian household’s electricity consumption for three weeks.

If wind is to continue to grow as a global energy source, an impact on wildlife cannot be avoided. The blades of WTGs pose a threat to migratory birds, and the vibrations interfere with burrowing animals’ natural habitat. Moreover, land otherwise used for alternative purposes will have to be given up.– The three machines on the Devgarh wind farm take up three hundred square metres of land, with a 150 metre safety zone between each tower, tells Rathod. In addition to this land loss, the landscape is aesthetically disrupted and for this reason, considerable opposition to WTGs has added to the complex issue of where to place farms. The three machines in Devgarh were installed in 2000. Regulations requiring an EIA were not established in India until 2003, therefore Vestas’ desire to build quickly meant that no pre-assessment of the area occurred, nor were the locals consulted. However, Rathod says there have been no complaints.