A leader of the global wind energy industry has identified Australia as a future wind turbine manufacturing hub, as the world races to build the renewable energy capacity required to meet the interntaional climate goal of limiting global warming to 2°C.
Tulsi Tanti, the founder, chairman and managing director of India’s Suzlon Energy is in Australia this week to discuss the outlook for the wind industry, both globally and in Australia, and where costs of the renewable energy technology are headed.
In an interview with RenewEconomy on Wednesday, Tanti said Australia had the potential to be one of the “world’s greenest countries,” with its plentiful space and solar and wind resources, and even had potential to become a centre for wind turbine manufacturing, but only if it continued to build momentum in renewable energy development.
As it stands, there are no wind turbine manufacturers operating in Australia. And while we do have wind turbine tower makers, the nation’s largest – the Victoria-based Keppel Prince – barely hung in there through the lean years of the Abbott government.
But as Tanti pointed out, making large-scale wind turbines in Australia would make sense on a number of levels, the two most obvious being: jobs and growth.
“Now is the right time for Australia to invest in renewables,” Tanti said in an interview from Melbourne. “And the biggest advantage is long-term sustainable jobs.
The other most obvious benefit for Australia, he said, would be lower costs of wind project development. As Tanti notes, at 40 per cent, Australia has some of the highest project costs in world, which normally average at no higher than 30 per cent elsewhere in the world.
“Why can’t (wind turbines) be made in Australia? It’s a win-win situation. It will create jobs and bring the cost of project down.”
But, answering his own question, Tanti said that the challenge facing the Australian market was that it was not yet good enough, size-wise, to establish a manufacturing industry.
He said that for companies like his to consider setting up a manufacturing base in Australia, they would first need to see the industry maintain a minimum of 2GW a year of new development.
“The rest of the world is going very aggressively,” he said. “In other parts of the world, governments are being aggressive and putting pressure on their manufacturing companies.
“Some of the countries are moving very fast and we would also like to see Australia (do this). …We can bring back the scale benefit to Australia to optimise (development), but first we would like to see if the market (is growing). …Then and only then we can think about it.”
But Tanti doesn’t see this being too much of a problem for Australia. “Financially, PPAs are available. Liquidity is not a problem. I don’t see the constraint on the funding side,” he said.
“The limitations are regulatory… There have to be annual targets, there should be checks and balances. Real execution (of policy),” he added.
Tanti, whose company has has about 25 per cent off the installed Australian market, around 400 turbines, is also optimistic about the cost of electricity generation from wind power, which he believes can be reduced by another 20 per cent by 2018.
“We are continuously investing in technology. Our plan is very clear. …In the next 5 years we will be bringing down the LCOE (levellised cost of energy) 20 per cent.
Tanti said the company planned to do this by increasing production, and by optimising the cost structure and the total project cost. He said the size of new-build wind farms would be an important ingredient in this, with 500MW suggested as a minimum for new project.
Suzlon’s newest turbine is its S111, which is 2.1MW, with a rotor diameter of 111.8 meters and a swept area of more than 9,500 square meters, making it one of the highest yielding wind turbines in its class.