Engineering

Renewable Opportunities: Jobs in the Wind Energy Sector in India (Episode 3)

Author: Dr. Rupak Banerjee

In the past, I have written about the scope of opportunities in the renewable energy sector, and the specific opportunities in Solar Energy. In this post, let’s take a look into the opportunities that Wind Energy provides us with.

According to Dr. S Gomathiayagam of the National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE), Chennai, India has the potential for wind power installation of 48 GW, mostly focused in the south and western parts of the country (Gujarat, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu taking the biggest shares of the pie). However, this estimate has been arrived at assuming 50-meter-high wind turbines. Over the past 20 years, the height of the wind turbine has continued to grow, primarily driven by new engineering designs and the economic benefit of fewer taller towers compared to larger number of shorter towers, as detailed in this article in Renewable Energy World. Fewer towers not only means less towers to buy, but also smaller land requirements, lower maintenance costs, and less service road construction. In a country with a high population density as India, the reduced land requirement can be a big selling point. Therefore, it is better to strive for the taller, more economic wind turbines. For 80-meter-high wind turbines, the potential for wind power installation increases to over 100 GW. Current state-of-the-art wind turbines can reach over 100 meters in height, which is what India should strive for.

   
  
    
  
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  Muppandal wind farm along NH 44 (Credit:   
  
   
  
    
  
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  https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons )

Muppandal wind farm along NH 44 (Credit: http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html or https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Currently, India has an installed wind capacity of 32 GW, providing a large scope for growth. In keeping with this, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy established the National institute of Wind Energy in 1998. With growth, comes an opportunity for new jobs.

Currently, the large wind turbine market is dominated by manufacturers located in China, South Korea, USA, Germany, and India. India has four major manufacturers: Elecon Engineering, RRB Energy Limited, Suzlon, and Inox Wind. They will provide new opportunities in manufacturing, as the growth in wind power generation picks up speed.

As expected, a quick look at the possible job options in Wind Energy reveals good opportunities for Mechanical and Electrical engineers. There is also a demand for chemical engineers and material scientists looking to build robust turbines which can sustain in harsh environments. These turbines are exposed to the whims and fancies of weather, and therefore, need to be designed to sustain under extreme conditions and corrosive environment. For engineers with Electronics or Computer systems background, integrating wind power into the grid requires modulating the changes in the power generation.

A great way to figure out what kind of jobs are  available or will come about in the future, is by going through the wind career map by the US – Department of Energy. At the entry level, there are options which range from Meteorological Technician who install, maintain, and decommission meteorological towers and equipment, the conception of the project to the operations stage. In a practical sense, having a Secondary School education should be sufficient to tackle these jobs.

As for any large scale construction project, wind farms are going to generate construction work at the manufacturing sites for these wind turbines, which would require an increase in the vocational as well as diploma programs. If you hold a diploma in any Engineering discipline, increase in wind power generation is going to create more jobs. Highly skilled maintenance staff are going to be in demand, ranging from mechanics, electricians, and plumbers, to help maintain these large scale installations.

There would also be an increase in the need for professionals trained in Environmental Sciences or Earth Sciences, as these projects would need more analysis, not only at the land level but at the height they operate at. Wind farms, like solar projects are deployed over large areas. This increases the need for automation and the utilization of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to monitor and check for maintenance, especially at the height of the turbine towers. So, a background in controls, or in robotics is definitely something to benefit from.

With increased deployment, there will also be an increase in demand for Data Scientists who work on energy modeling, financial modeling, and demand predictions for these intermittent sources of energy. If you feel like playing around with wind data, OpenEI provides free to access datasets that you can hone your skills on.

In the meantime, while you figure out how you want to build a career in wind power in India, here is a great visual tool to play around with, from NREL.

And if you feel like reading some more, check out the following books:

1.    Wind Power Plants and Project Development By Joshua Earnest and Tore Wizelius

2.    Build Your Own Small Wind Power System By Kevin Shea

Renewable Opportunities: Jobs in Solar Energy Sector in India (Episode 2)

Author: Dr. Rupak Banerjee

Let’s pick up where we left off last time. The 6th largest economy in the world is currently growing at a rate of 6 – 7% annually. This in itself presents a huge opportunity to create new jobs. Add the prospect of a whole new industry opening up, and the results are lots of new jobs further feeding a strong economy. With its strong commitment to transitioning to a low carbon economy, India has in fact created the opportunity to create numerous new jobs.

Of the 326 GW of power being currently generated in India, 17.7% (57.7 GW) comes from renewable sources. Wind (power) contributes the largest to this mix, with a total production of 32 GW of power, followed closely by solar at over 12 GW of power. With the transition to a low carbon economy, and in keeping with the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), India has a target of getting to 60 GW of Wind and 100 GW of Solar. Considering that these are the two biggest growth areas, let’s take a look at the job opportunities that this growth in renewables presents us with.

A good case study to look at while understanding solar jobs is the US. In 2016, 2% of all new jobs were created in the solar sector. In the same year, India’s labor force grew by 11 million (worldbank.org). A similar growth (although ambitious) would result in 220 thousand new jobs in solar alone. Is that a number we can afford to ignore?

India currently has 9 National Power Training Institutes (NPTI) spread out across the country. The locations of each are given here. Over the past 50 years of their existence, the NPTI has trained over 140,000 personnel. This includes MBAs in Power Management, Engineers specializing in Power Engineering as well as a variety of Post Graduate Diploma. However, with the possibility of 220,000 new jobs every year, in the Solar power sector alone, it is imperative for India to invest more in its training institutes. There is a well-established spread of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) across the country, 23 in total, which need to create more programs in power engineering with specializations in solar and wind energy.

It is important to keep in mind that this growth is not in the future but is here already. India is currently home to the largest solar plant, at Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu, producing 550 MW. The jobs that this industry is bringing with it, are new and exciting. They are also well paying technical jobs, helping to boost the middle class economy.

   
  
    
  
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   Solar power plant at Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu (Photo Credit:    
  
   
  
    
  
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   Aljazeera  )

Solar power plant at Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu (Photo Credit: Aljazeera)

So what kind of jobs are we talking about. A quick search on job portals brings designations such as Business development manager (Solar), Energy analysts, energy consultants, energy engineers, solar engineers, and project officers to the forefront. You can of course tweak the search with your qualifications to see what you would qualify for specifically. Scrolling through the qualifications being sought highlights business skills, electrical engineering, power engineering, project management, and sales. In addition, there is also a growing demand in financial modeling of energy assets. Getting a foundational understanding of national and international legal challenges in energy trading, balancing both WTO norms with Climate Change demands, will also go a long way.

Although, electrical and power engineering steal the thunder in the changing jobs environment, the solar array in Kamuthi (shown above) has to be cleaned every day. This is done using robots, bringing in automation engineers, coupled with mechanical and computer scientists. These also would require highly skilled maintenance staff, which would further fuel the need for technicians with advanced diplomas as well as engineers leading these projects as well as facilitating their upkeep. There is a growing number of solar tech companies (Saurya EnerTech, Tata Solar Power, and Vikram Solar to name just a few) that are also coming in to the forefront and new graduates should keep them in mind.

In conversations about manufacturing for solar, China often steals the limelight. However, there are several manufacturers based in India, who are accelerating their production, resulting in manufacturing jobs. Indosolar, Vikram Solar, and the Waaree Group come to mind. They are manufacturing their solar panels in India providing carbon free energy and also creating jobs. As students seek admission into Colleges and Universities, they should keep in mind that the job market is shifting at a rapid pace and therefore, selecting courses and majors should be done keeping the future in mind.

Increased solar contribution to the grid also means greater fluctuations in energy production. These have to be met with improved control systems and automation in the energy production. This is only a small glimpse into the diversity of the job market that is developing as a result of the Paris Climate Accord and the resulting shift to a carbon free energy. Everyone has a role to play. From my research into solar jobs in India and how the job market is moving, it is evident that whatever you have trained in, you are probably going to be valuable in the new low carbon economy. So, whenever you are thinking of changing jobs, make sure to take a look at opportunities in Solar and more generally in renewable energy. The sector is booming and more people are needed to make the transition possible and profitable.

Here are some reference books for you to delve into:

  1. The Solar Sales Leap: Stop Knocking on Doors, Cold Calling, and Buying Leads and Start Using the Internet to Grow Your Solar Energy Business for the Long Term By Erik Curren
  2. Top 40 Costly Mistakes Solar Newbies Make: Your Smart Guide to Solar Powered Home and Business By Lacho Pop and Dimi Avram

Renewable Opportunities: Scope of Renewable Energy in India for Jobs & Entrepreneurship (Episode 1)

Author: Dr. Rupak Banerjee

Fortune estimates that new jobs in solar and wind power have been growing 12 times faster than average new job creation in the US. Similar trends are expected in China and India as jobs in renewable energy pick up. In a series of blog posts, I intend on exploring the opportunities that the low carbon economy will bring to India, and dig deeper into the impact of climate change and climate action on the Indian economy and its young job seekers.

India, with a population of 1.3 billion and counting, is the second most populous country in the world. Even with a meager 1.7 metric ton of Carbon Dioxide emission per year per capita, the sheer size of the population makes it the third largest carbon emitter in the world (epa.gov) contributing 7% of the global emissions. 

India signed the Paris accord in 2015 and with a pledge to cut its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity by 33 – 35% by the year 2030 in comparison to its GHG emissions of 2005. This is a very ambitious plan considering that India still has over 200 million people (1/6th of the population) living without reliable access to electricity (Source: www.nrdc.org). With an economy projected to grow at 6 – 7% annually, India’s quest for energy is not likely to slow down.

India is the seventh largest economy by nominal GDP while it ranks at 141st in nominal GDP per capita. With the economy growing and more people emerging from poverty, the expectations of lifestyle and standard of living will continue to march on. An improved lifestyle and higher standard of living result in higher consumption of electrical power, greater reliance on transportation which all lead to increase in GHG emissions. As China grew its GDP through the 1990s – 2010s, its GHG emissions grew threefold (see figure). Similar changes have been seen through post-industrialization history with most countries.

As India’s economy and GDP grow, similar growth in Carbon Dioxide emissions are expected. This is what makes the Indian pledge to the Paris climate accord so important. In a future post, I will discuss why it is so important for India to pledge big against climate change. For now, it is interesting to note that Climate Action Tracker  rates India’s pledge and strategy among the few countries who are on track for limiting the global warming to a maximum of 2°C.

Step two, we need to understand the scale of the problem. India had a total installed capacity of 1.3 GW of electrical power generation in 1947 at the time of independence. In the past 70 years, it has grown by 250 times to reach a total installed capacity of 326.8 GW. To put this in perspective, the United States currently has an installed capacity of 1064 GW while China has over 1500 GW, and continues to grow. India’s capacity is definitely going to increase as more villages are electrified, more people purchase more electrical appliances and the quality of life increases. The Government of India’s (GoI) Ministry of Power reports that of the 326 GW of electrical power being generated in India, 17.7% comes from renewable sources, with an additional 13.6% from hydroelectric and 2.1% from nuclear. That amounts to over 30% of the electricity generation is already free of carbon emissions.

Let’s switch gears. Now that we know what the pledge is for the Paris accord, let us evaluate what strategy India is pursuing. First, let us look at the wording of the pledge. India has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity by 33 – 35% by the year 2030 in comparison to its GHG emissions of 2005. The keyword is intensity. The emissions are not going to be going down by 2030, but the rate of change will be slower. The graph shows makes it easier to understand.

Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 8.42.07 AM.png

The second part of the pledge is to achieve 40% cumulative electrical power capacity from non-fossil fuel sources. We are already over the 30% mark for non-fossil fuel sourced electrical generation, but it will become more challenging as India’s thirst for power grows and more capacity is added. The easiest and most reliable capacity addition is through thermal power plants (either fossil fuel or nuclear) as renewable energy can be intermittent and requires equivalent backup in the form of fossil fuel powered plants. As India continues on its path to add more capacity it will be important to add significantly more solar and wind along with nuclear to offset any new thermal power plants coming online.

In line with its pledge for the Paris accord, India has set a target of achieving 100 GW of installed capacity from solar by the year 2022. As of September 2016, India’s installed solar capacity stood at 8 GW. That gives India 6 years to add 92 GW of solar capacity. We are already another 1 year in, leaving 5 more years to achieve the target. Imagine what this means for companies investing in solar power in India and the potential for jobs as more installations come online.

In the next post, I will explore the new jobs that are being created as part of the renewable energy revolution that is currently ready to boom. In the meanwhile, write to me if you have suggestions or if I missed something, or just if you want to say hi. And if you want to read some more about climate action, here are two interesting books to chew on:

  1. What We Think About When We (Try Not to) Think About Global Warming: Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action By Per Espen Stoknes
  2. Local Climate Action Planning By Micheal R. Boswell, Adrienne I. Greve and Tammy L. Seale