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Anne McEntee, President & CEO Onshore Wind, GE Renewable Energy

01 May 2016

‘We will continue to expand our digital offerings for wind sector’ Anne McEntee, President & CEO Onshore Wind, GE Renewable Energy, was recently in India to launch her company’s digital wind farm technology and the latest 2.3-116 Wind Turbine. On this occasion, InfralinePlus caught up with McEntee to get a peek into GE’s business plans and into new offerings for the Indian wind energy sector as also her views on regulatory and policy framework here.

The Indian Government is coming out with Repowering policy. What challenges you can see?

The Repowering policy will have the capacity to rebuild older sites where the wind conditions are really strong and upgrade that further. The challenge lies in the evacuation of the wind power from the grid, which needs upgrade. It would be interesting to rebuild the capacities especially by using digital technology. GE has a PowerUp technology which ensures that the turbines sold 3-4 years back can now work at 5 per cent higher capacity. With this new technology we can optimize the efficiency of the turbine according to the wind conditions.

Can you tell us what advantages your digital wind farm technology offers and how it works?

The digital wind farm technology allows us to optimize the energy generation throughout the life-cycle of the plant. This technology relates to using Big Data and Analytics and prognostics on the turbine. GE has developed the Predix platform. It’s very secure and is designed for big data analytics on industrial equipment. So, we have a world-class technology platform combined with digital infrastructure that allows us to bring world class analytics. So, this is all part of our digital wind farm application. As we continue to evolve and solve some of our customers’ toughest problems, we will continue to expand our digital offerings.

How has GE technology advanced in India?

In the wind industry, there is this belief that the turbines become less efficient with time but what we found by monitoring our turbines is that they have been more efficient over time and we get more output. With the growing demand for wind power, the towers have got taller; the blades have got bigger along with the rotor diameters. We used to be at 65 metres tower size, but now globally we deliver close to 140 metres. In the new product, 94 metre tall tower has been deployed in India with 116 metre diameter rotor producing 2.3 MW of power. This is the largest metre diameter rotor in the country.

How have been the technological advancement and efficiency gains in the wind power sector in the last one decade?

If we look at ten years back then the levelised cost of energy has dropped by 60-70 per cent in the US, which has been a global trend as well. Our new product has 2.3 MW capacity, 116meter rotor diameter and 94 meter tower height. There will be an increase of 30 per cent more gross Annual Energy Production over its predecessor that is, the 1.7MW-103 meter rotor diameter and 91 meter tower height.

Have you localised you technology to meet requirements of Indian conditions?

India has lower wind speed conditions and we continue to work on the technologies that are necessary to be competitive here in the region. That means larger rotor to capture the energy of the wind. In addition, we are developing software that allows us to forecast better in India. We have a pilot going with our customer -- Panama Wind Energy -- where over the last 6-8 months; we have been able to accurately forecast 94 per cent of the power generation within a 15 per cent forecasting band. With the challenges in grid in India, this will enable more stability in the grid and so the grid operator can plan better and it will be a nice differentiator for us at GE.

Can your manufacturing capacity be scaled up to meet equipment requirement for faster capacity addition?

In India, our only manufacturing facility for wind turbine is at Pune. It is a GE world-class manufacturing facility with advanced manufacturing technologies. We have a huge capacity in this facility and it is scalable.

Is GE also looking at strategic investment in wind power projects here?

GE Energy Financial Services is a part of GE Capital. It selectively looks at renewable energy projects and we do strategic investment there. It helps our Indian customers get the technology advantage from GE while the investment allows them to go faster. Over the last several years, there have been at least 5-6 projects in India that were funded through GE Energy Financial Services.

What is your take on potential of offshore wind power in India?

Offshore is an opportunity in many countries and India is exploring offshore more and more. In our case, with the ALSTOM acquisition completed back in November 2015 - we now have an offshore division and we are successfully putting our first US project – the 6 MW in Rhode Island -- and we are excited about it. As a key technology leader, we do participate in the MNRE discussions. Viability of offshore wind energy would depend on what we are competing against.

Is GE ready to step up its contribution to help meet India’s revised capacity addition target of 60,000 MW by 2022?

We are excited about the Indian market and we applaud the government for setting up aggressive goals to get 60 GW of wind installed in India by 2022. We are excited about the new product that we are bringing to India (2.3-116) as well as the advancement that we are doing in the digital wind farm technologies. We have our PowerUp capability where we aim to run the turbine better today. And we have our GE Energy Financial Services offerings where we provide inclusive solutions to our customers. We are optimistic about India and we continue to grow at a nice pace and we are happy about what the market is bringing to us.

Do you think that in India wind energy has taken a back seat after focus has shifted to solar power?

Solar and wind complement each other and we still see a significant amount of wind development continues and we at GE are investing in solar farms through our Energy Financial Services division as well as our Energy Connections business and we continue to provide solutions to solar farms. We are encouraged by the renewable growth that lies ahead in India and there is plenty of opportunity for both wind and solar in India.

What do you think the Government should do to expedite capacity addition in wind energy?

The wind energy market is moving at a very quick pace. In 2015, just 3 GW was installed and it has the potential to keep increasing, going ahead. 25 GW is already installed in wind, so it now has to grow more than double to reach 60 GW by 2022 – the target set by Government of India. The question is how the policies are going to support this. The generation based incentives are the best metric to drive development. For simplifying land acquisition -- which still has complexities associated with it -- the government needs to engage with developers closely. The government needs to make sure that the land is available to set up wind farms. Financing of the projects has been a challenge for the growth of the industry. Consistency in the feed-in-tariff policies and generation based incentives can go a long way. Withdrawal of the accelerated depreciation will not impact the capacity addition in the wind energy sector. We are seeing a lot of activity and it is a matter of pace of change and how quickly the market can respond and the projects can get developed and as long as long the government continues to support the land acquisition, the financing and the generation based incentive - we are on nice path to get close to achieving the objective of 60 GW.