Energy Industry Entrepreneurs
Business Opportunities - Wind Energy
Written by Gautam Patil for Gaebler Ventures
The world wide capacity of wind turbines has quadrupled from 2000 to 2006 and stood at about 94 GW at the end of 2007. This is expected to further increase to 160 GW at the end of 2010. Due to its favorable economics, wind power is one of the most important and fastest growing segments of the energy market. The total value of the new capacity installed in 2007 stood at USD $36 billion.
Being one of the fastest growing segments of the global energy market, wind power presents many opportunities to entrepreneurs and investors worldwide.
Wind turbines in the MW range of rated power still remain a highly capital intensive proposition, however, unlike thermal or hydel power projects they do not need large installed capacities (of the order of hundreds of MW) to become financially viable. For instance, even a 0.5 to 1 MW wind power project could produce power at a cost comparing favorably with that produced by such large scale projects.
Wind power provides a very lucrative opportunity in the area of rural electrification.
Rural pockets typically have low energy requirements and the demand is highly predictable. Being financially feasible at a lower scale, wind turbines coupled with a low cost storage solution could be a practical and cost effective solution. It requires a relatively smaller outlay and even after accounting for transmission and distribution costs, it could provide good returns on investment.
The trend in the wind power industry is that of consolidation with companies integrating across the supply chain - from manufacturing of components to consultancy, site preparation, installation and maintenance. As site selection is a crucial factor for financial viability of such projects, there is high demand for such sites.
However, unlike solar projects which require large areas of terrain, wind power projects use much smaller fractions of land (for the foundation purposes). The remaining land can still be used for its original purposes like agriculture, cattle grazing etc. With weather reports and other related data available from some public and proprietary sources, it is possible for individuals to acquire rights to such sites in advance and then sell them or enjoy site rentals when wind turbines are installed there.
In some countries, it is also possible to connect wind power projects to utility grids and this power can later be tapped by the end user at a different location (in India this facility is called 'electricity banking'). The utility company deducts a pre-determined amount towards transmission and distribution costs. Such a scheme helps companies subsidize their energy costs.
Just like solar power, small scale wind power could be tapped by local entrepreneurs to charge deep cycle batteries and supply them to local residents in areas with frequent power outages or during emergencies.
Wind power is also an attractive option for off-grid applications but the only problem is the intermittency of the power generated. With a good storage solution, it can be a cheaper and more reliable option compared to solar energy.
Gautam Patil is a recent MBA graduate from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. In addition to serving as a contributing writer for Gaebler.com, he will join the consulting firm Oliver Wyman at their London office.
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