Sudhindra Rao: CEO of Global Wind Power

Global Wind Power (GWP) of India was founded in 2006 as a special business for wind power development and wind turbine manufacturing. A subsidiary of the huge conglomerate Reliance ADA Group, over the past two years the new wind industry entrant has erected some 400 of its 225 kW wind turbines in India. Meanwhile, three larger turbine models are currently being added to the product portfolio. Eize de Vries spoke with Global Wind Power’s CEO Sudhindra Rao about company strategy and his plans to become a main wind industry player in years to come.

The Reliance ADA Group is considered one of the India’s top three businesses, with widespread interests in communications, energy, natural resources and finance and a market capitalization of about US$43 billion. The group is one of India’s largest power utilities, with renewables making up 5% of its total installed capacity.

Speaking recently in GWP’s office in the Netherlands, which is responsible for all sales outside India, chief executive Sudhindra Rao began by explaining the origins of GWP. ‘Back in 2003 we were still considering to whether or not to enter the wind business. In that period many offers were made to us for businesses that were for sale’, recalled Rao. ‘A year later, global demand for wind turbines had grown dramatically and by 2006 even faster. About that time we had indeed decided to enter the wind business. However, after intensively searching in the market for suitable take-over candidates, we discovered that nobody was left for sale anymore. But the Reliance ADA Group was lucky to acquire a proven 225 kW wind turbine model from NEPC of India.’

Locally manufactured volume product

The 225 kW turbine GWP bought from NEPC is a stall-regulated fixed-speed model that NEPC itself had ‘inherited’ from the former Micon of Denmark many years earlier. Including GWP’s recent wind turbine installation base, in total more than 3000 units of this machine (renamed the 225 kW GWP 30) have been manufactured in India. Importantly, all major components for this turbine are also manufactured locally. According to Rao, the machine represents a good investment for small and medium-sized businesses in India and overseas markets like the Caribbean, the US, Poland, and Turkey.

In a second major business development step, GWP acquired a full licence for a Danish 750 kW fixed-speed active stall-regulated Norwin turbine, while it simultaneously secured a 33% shareholding in this small company. In addition, Fuhrländer of Germany has issued a licence to GWP – valid for the Indian market – for a 1.5 MW pitch-controlled variable speed turbine model originally designed by Windtec. With a rotor diameter of 47 metres the Norwin turbine has been renamed GWP 47–750 kW, while the new type name for the Fuhrländer turbine is the GWP 77–1.5 MW. For the manufacture of 750 kW and 1.5 MW turbines a new facility with an annual 600 MW production capacity has recently become operational in Mumbai. A first batch of 750 kW wind turbines assembled in this plant entered the Indian wind market in October 2008. As a second step in its market entrance strategy, GWP also ordered 10 1.5 MW turbines from Fuhrländer, while the manufacture in India of these machines is due to commence next June at the Mumbai facility.

Direct drive

For the near future, GWP has great expectations of a fourth turbine type, the GWP 82–2.0 MW. This is a direct drive wind turbine concept designed by engineering consultancy Lagerwey Wind, headed by Dutch wind pioneer Henk Lagerwey.

The new direct-drive turbine concept builds on past experiences – since 1993 or thereabouts – the electrical engineer had gained through his design involvement with 750 kW and 2 MW former Lagerwey and former Zephyros direct-drive turbines. Says Rao: ‘Part of the contract with Lagerwey Wind is a comprehensive technology transfer agreement. In June 2009 a prototype will be erected at a test field in Lelystad, the Netherlands, while a second sister prototype is planned for October–November 2009 in India. We expect type certification completion by the end of 2009 and to commence GWP 82–2 MW series production as from 2nd quarter 2010.’

The new IEC class II and III turbine is designed to be robust, sustainable and reliable, elaborates Rao. It also features a competitive top head mass (nacelle + rotor), together with a modular nacelle design, including an easily removable generator. The overall concept enables the employment of a 400 tonne erection crane. The turbine further features an in-house designed, fully enclosed and naturally cooled permanent magnet generator. GWP has chosen an 82 metre rotor as part of a strategy that focuses on long-term reliability.

Financial leverage

Securing sufficient components is a major issue for all wind turbine suppliers. Commenting on the GWP strategy Rao says: ‘Our turbine types are standard fitted with LM rotor blades, which are manufactured locally. For our 750 kW and 1.5 MW turbine models we procure gearboxes and generators from established international suppliers.’ He adds that Reliance’s financial leverage proved to be ‘beneficial during component procurement negotiations in a tight market situation.’ He continues: ‘For the GWP 82–2 MW turbine we are establishing our own generator manufacturing facility in India. And from this October GWP serves its tubular steel tower demand from a newly built, state-of-the-art facility.’

The maximum annual manufacturing capacity for the 225 kW turbines is 125 MW, while GWP currently sells about 80 MW a year. For the 750 kW, 1.5 MW and 2.0 MW turbines combined, Rao envisages an output of 600 MW by 2010: ‘We expect that the component supply situation to start improving from that period onwards, and plan to increase turbine output levels accordingly.’

GWP plans a careful step-by-step growth strategy for the next few years, with customer satisfaction high on the agenda of company values and an integral part of the ISO quality system. Offering a full service contract that covers full turbine technical risks is therefore closely linked to turbine sales and this is facilitated by its association with Reliance, which also owns an insurance company. At the same time this modest growth scenario gives GWP time to build a viable organization with limited growing pains, Rao observes.

Perhaps some insight into the fresh thinking of the newcomer is given by a long-term business strategy GWP pursues. The company is offering its customers a full service agreement and, when applicable, a full operational lease contract. Such a lease contract formula represents a genuine wind industry novelty. It includes a fixed price paid per kWh for a 15-year period and a guaranteed 95%–97% availability. GWP markets the contract under the slogan: ‘Minimum risk with maximum customer benefits!’

Eize de Vries is Wind Technology Correspondent for Renewable Energy World.

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