Indian Power Sector should
have 1,000 MW sets in its profile
[R V Shahi's Weekly Column for
Infraline, March 17, 2008]
If we look at the historical development of Indian power sector, particularly
from the point of view of assimilating new technologies, we would have reasons
both to be happy and also to be sad. While in a period of about 60 years we
have added almost 1,40,000 MW and thereby raised the per capita consumption from
a very low level of 15 kwh to about 620 kwh per year, and this by no means is a
small achievement, there are countries which have done much better. In the
initial days of development of the Indian power sector, we had the rating of
power generating sets in the range of 5 to 10 MW which subsequently increased to
about 60 MW during 60's, to 100/110 MW during 70's, to 210 MW during early 80's,
and to 500 MW in mid 80's. Thereafter there has been a long gap in upgrading
the power generation technology in our power development programmes. From 1985,
for more than 20 years, we are almost stagnant at 500 MW. In the recent years
efforts have been made, but generating sets of higher ratings and with super
critical technologies have yet to come to Indian power grid. It is expected
that somewhere in 2009 the unit rating of 660 MW could get connected to the
system which would mean almost 25 years after we got 500 MW into the system.
I recall, about two and a half years back, the President of one of the premier
power manufacturing companies of China viz. Dongfang was having a discussion in
my office in Shram Shakti Bhawan. By then the Chinese power equipment
manufacturing companies had already made their entries into Indian power sector
- Dongfang, Shanghai Electric and Harbind have all been active and atleast two
of them quite successful. The President of Dongfang explained to me, through a
very nicely prepared company's brochure, particularly focusing attention on a
chart which showed how during various phases this company upgraded its
manufacturing ability both in terms of quantities as also in terms of
upgradation of unit rating. He showed, with a great degree of pride, that till
early 80's India's BHEL was considered as a role model for Dongfang. In fact in
many ways BHEL was ahead of them. And, during the period beyond mid 80's,
additions of units of higher ratings beyond 200 MW and passing through 300 MW,
600 MW and rising upto 1,000 MW characterize a significant proportion of their
manufacturing profile. Also their annual production capacity rose to over
25,000 MW, almost four times of BHEL, during last twenty years. While the
President of the Dongfang was so enthused and very happy in narrating as to how
in last 20 years they have left BHEL far behind, I, as an Indian power
professional was really sad at heart thinking why we could not have done better.
While talking on the issue of upgradation of rating of generating units, another
incident that I recall and I consider worth mentioning is when NTPC was
considering, around 1986, addition of two 500 MW units at its Farakka Power
Station in West Bengal. There were two schools of thoughts. According to one,
it should pose absolutely no problem because by then NTPC was already in the
process of having 500 MW sets at three of its earlier power stations - two at
Singrauli, two at Korba and three at Ramagundam, some of them already
commissioned and others in construction. Another school of thought opined that
the eastern grid had a much smaller system capacity, and therefore, if a 500 MW
unit tripped it could have an adverse impact in destabilizing the grid. Finally
after a lot of debates, computations and analysis the issue got settled in
favour of going ahead and the rest is the history. It needs to be mentioned
that in those days concept of National Grid was not there and each of the
Regional Grids operated with its own frequency in isolation of the other. Over
a period of time now we have atleast four Regional Grids inter-connected on
synchronous mode with almost 90,000 MW of capacity.
The time has been, for quite a few years, ripe and also right to have larger
sets connected to the grid with all the resultant advantages of cost
effectiveness, economies of scale, energy efficiency in terms of comparatively
improved heat rates etc. Having got into the system 500 MW sets in late 80's,
perhaps late 90's was the right time when we should have atleast made a
beginning of having a number of generating sets of larger ratings. During the
Tenth Plan it was envisaged that NTPC would have 660 MW sets with super critical
technologies aggregating to more than 4,000 MW of capacity. It waited for BHEL
to organize technical collaboration so that it could atleast participate when
such tenders were initiated. BHEL took its own time in finalising such
arrangements. Even now its domestic preparedness for manufacturing of units of
higher ratings is far away from what one could have expected. And, as a result,
the delay has deprived the Indian Power sector from the benefits of 600, 660,800
and 1,000 MW sets. In case of Ultra Mega Projects, initiated by the Ministry of
Power in 2006, the super critical technology and larger unit rating was made
obligatory. Obviously, these units would get commissioned only towards the end
of Eleventh Plan (by 2011-12).
Another consideration which is sometimes put forth is that in a situation of
shortage, which the Indian power sector is confronted with (peaking shortage of
the order of over 14%), and is likely to continue with such a situation, large
size units, when out on breakdown or even on scheduled maintenance, lead to
greater distress. If the same capacity is composed of three or four different
units, the impact of these units not being available, whether because of planned
maintenance or because of forced outages, is significantly less. There is
considerable weight in this argument. However, the advantages of larger units,
because of more optimal capital cost, and therefore considerable benefit by way
of reduced fixed cost of power, as well as the consideration of climate change,
where larger units could be expected to be considerably more efficient on fuel
consumption, would perhaps override the problem pointed out earlier in relation
to lower units providing greater flexibility in terms of their non-availability
causing lesser problems. On balance, with the Indian power sector reaching an
installed capacity base of about 1,50,000 MW very soon, larger units in the
system could provide greater advantages. They were relevant even five year
back. They are more relevant now - even 1000 MW sets.
Last week I was in Japan and had the benefit of visiting a power plant which has
one unit of 1,000 MW. I was deeply impressed at the compact layout and the
performance in terms of various parameters that this plant has been exhibiting.
Japan has an overall installed capacity of more than 2,00,000 MW (200 GW).
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is the largest power generation,
transmission and distribution company which supplies electricity to the Tokyo
metropolitan region, which covers about 10% of Japan's total land area.
However, since this area is comparatively more thickly populated, even though
area wise it is 10%, almost 30% of Japan's population live in this region. This
also happens to be Japan's political and economic hub. The annual consumption
of electricity in this area is around 300 billion kwh which is about one third
of the total electricity supply in the country. The power plant that I visited
is located at Hitachinaka about 130 km north-east of Tokyo and it is called
Hitachinaka Thermal Power Station. It belongs to Tokyo Electric Power Company.
This company which has a total capacity of 64.3 GW has about 17 GW of nuclear,
35 GW of thermal (including 1.6 GW on coal) and balance hydro electric capacity.
There are a number of electric utilities in Japan covering different service
areas. The total volume of electricity supply is around 900 TWH (billion kwh).
To have an idea of size of operations of different utilities, in addition to
TEPCO, the following Table indicates the volume of electricity sales by these
Approximate Percentage of Total Volume
Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Kansal Electric Power Co.
Chubu Electric Power Co.
Tohoku Electric Power Co.
Kyushu Electric Power Co.
Chugoku Electric Power Co.
Shikoku Electric Power Co.
Hokoriku Electric Power Co.
Hokkaidu Electric Power Co.
Okinawa Electric Power Co.
The Hitachinaka Thermal Power Station is located by the side of the Hitachinaka
port. It is a state- of- the-art coal based thermal power plant and it started
commercial operation in December, 2003. It consumes about 2.3 million tones of
coal per year. Some of the technical parameters are given below:
Main steam pressure - 24.5 mpa
Main steam temperature - 600 degreeo C.
Re-heating steam temperature - 600 degreeo C.
Overall thermal efficiency - 43.1%.
Height of stack - 230 meters (supported by octagonal cross spiral steel tower).
Cooling water intake/outlet system - curtain wall type intake and under water
For flu gas treatments - De Nox system and De Sox system.
The plant imports coal mainly from Australia and the calorific value is in the
range of 6,500 to 7000 KCal per kilogram. Before the coal is fed into the
boiler, pieces of coal in the storage yard, which are about 5 Cm. in size, are
pulverized into fine powder. Some of the important points which need to be
brought out are as follows:
Even though the imported coal is far superior as compared to the
coal that we normally have in our power plants from our coal mines, the
Hitachinaka Power Plant has made special arrangement in the coal yard for
prevention of coal dust from flying out, and for this special Wind Barriers of
sufficient heights have been erected around the coal yard.
The De Nox and De Sox plants have been set-up to specifically
address the environmental concerns, as compared to the conventional
electrostatic precipitators which are the normal features in Indian power
They are able to achieve an availability of about 99%.
A set of sound proof walls have been erected around the boiler,
the building that houses the turbines, the smoke stack etc. and they are so
designed as to match the surrounding.
The electricity supply system of TEPCO, as mentioned consists of about 64 GW.
1,000 MW unit is not creating any destabilizing effect. Indian Integrated
System now is much larger and therefore the apprehension of large unit being
responsible for any destabilization could be fully misplaced.
The power plant set-up at Hitachinaka has been supplied by the Hitachi Electric
Works. I also had the opportunity of visiting this factory which is about 120
km north-east of Tokyo. It produces turbines and generators of different
sizes. Hitachi was founded in 1910 and at that time the objective was to
establish a national industrial technology. This organization over last 100
years has seen different phases and facets of technology development. Presently
the factory located in an area of around 150 acres is capable to produce
turbines and generators of different sizes. Hitachi have a number of factories
producing different products in the power group. The following Table gives the
details of these factories alongwith their products.
Site area (000)m2
- Electrical Equipment
They have supplied so far more than 1700 Steam
Turbines with a total capacity of 1,12,000 MW including 65,000 MW supplied in
Japan and 47,000 MW in other countries. The following Table highlights Hitachi
Works production and supply over last 50 years.
Total No. of Turbines (Cumulative)
Total Generating Capacity
Maximum Single Unit Capacity
In the last two years, sufficient noise has been made that in India power
manufacturing capacity is totally inadequate compared to the size of demands and
particularly the demands ahead. People have gone to the extent of saying that
if China could add 70 to 80,000 MW of capacity a year thus taking their overall
capacity to more than 600,000 MW, it was primarily because of the fact that they
were able to set-up three large power plant manufacturing companies whose
aggregate capacity would be almost 80,000 MW per year. This is no doubt a
quantitative presentation of the technical ability of this country, But, even
qualitatively they have progressed far ahead in the sense that their indigenous
manufacturing capability includes large size units of 1,000 MW and more and
super critical technology. It would therefore be desirable that even now, though
belatedly, crash programmes are made and the concerned authorities facilitate
development of three to four manufacturing companies which could produce
boilers, turbines and generators of different sizes and also with latest
technologies. Any such effort would take atleast four to five years. As a
matter of fact, it may take much longer for such new ventures to produce and
supply any significant volume. In the meantime, Indian power sector cannot and
should not remain indifferent to the need for embracing larger units of 800 to
1,000 MW capacity. While I have been preparing this article during the
week-end, on Sunday (March 16, 2008), I asked a very knowledgeable
Turbine-Generator manufacturing Specialist, who has spent more than 35 years in
a large Turbine Generator factory, about possibility and workability of 1000 MW
sets in our system. His prompt response was that perhaps Indian coal could be
an area of concern. When I mentioned about washed coal blended with imported
coal, he was quite positive on the prospect.
This desire obviously cannot be met by altogether new players (the new
generating companies) who may have plans to develop in next four to five years 3
to 5,000 MW of capacity or even less. This responsibility should be taken by
large established power generating companies of the country. They can afford to
venture into these initiatives. In India, NTPC is the leader in the generation
field. Other generating companies of reasonable sizes include Maharashtra Power
Generating Company, Karnataka Power Corporation, Andhra Pradesh Generating
Company, and Rajasthan Power Generating Company in the thermal sector. These
companies and more particularly NTPC could be called upon to proceed with
inducting large size units into their power generation profile. Obviously the
country cannot wait for indigenous manufacturing industry to prepare, set up
factories, produce large size turbines and generators and then the utilities
establish such power plants. The time is right now for the major generating
utilities to float global tenders and set up a few such power stations with 800
MW unit size and some of them definitely with 1,000 MW unit rating.
Simultaneously we should also work on developing indigenous manufacturing.
No doubt, power systems which include the National Grid Transmission System,
Regional Transmission Systems, State Level Transmission Networks all have to
integrate their strategies in a manner that once the large units start getting
connected with the transmission systems, utmost care is exercised in responding
to the operational disciplines and maintenance programmes which are normally
expected for such integrated operations. Equally important would be the
country's preparedness for meeting the maintenance requirements in terms of
timely availability of spare parts for such large sized power units,
particularly in the areas of balance of plants. While in the Hitachinaka Power
Plant, we were told that the plant requires three months of outage for a
comprehensive overhaul. Our concern as to why such a long schedule is necessary
and also as to how the loss of availability would be mitigated in a shortage
situation like ours remained unanswered. We also raised this issue during our
deliberations in the Hitachi manufacturing Works. It appears that it should be
possible to drastically reduce the schedule of the periodic long term overhaul.
Whenever new technologies, and particularly when unit rating is higher, have to
be brought in, sufficient advance preparations are necessary by way of training
of operation and maintenance personnel. The Indian power engineers have shown
their ability in successfully transiting to the 500 MW systems. We need to be
confident that they will show equal competence while we transit through the
1,000 MW unit entry into Indian power system. What is necessary is a desire (a
dream or a vision), a goal, and more importantly, a commitment to reach that