Below are the excerpts of our recent interview with Mr. Rajnikanth Umakanthan, Managing Director, 3tier India
Let’s begin with a glimpse of your company’s presence and offerings in India?
As 3TIER India, we have been active in the Indian renewables market since 2008, providing energy assessment and fore- casting services via cutting-edge weather modeling, super-computing and numerical weather simulation. In 2013, we became part of Helsinki, Finland-based environmental and industrial measurement firm, Vaisala, enhancing our capacity to provide an end-to-end resource risk management service for developers, operators and investors.
Renewable energy performance is inherently affected by the weather, and Vaisala’s role in the sector is to help our clients manage this risk to build and operate the most effective assets possible. In practice, this means that we provide the measurement equipment and data analysis they need to conduct bankable wind and solar resource assessment campaigns, optimise project performance based on operational data, and manage the long-term financial impacts of resource variability on projects and portfolios.
To date, we have worked on over 50GW of Indian wind and solar capacity, and we expect to increase our market reach as construction ramps up and the industry develops a growing appreciation of weather as a major factor in financial performance.
What have been some of the recent developments at your organisation?
As I mentioned above, becoming a subsidiary of Vaisala has been an important step for our business and has expanded and enhanced the scope of the services we offer to renewables stakeholders in India.
3TIER was one of two specialist renewable energy companies acquired by Vaisala in 2013. Vaisala also acquired Second Wind, a Boston, Massachusetts-based business, that manufactures measurement devices specifically designed for renewable energy applications, especially wind. An example is the Triton Wind Profiler remote sensor, a ground-based, portable device that collects wind measurements at heights up to 200 metres.
Being part of a larger Vaisala Energy team means we can now combine our high speed computing, information services and numerical weather expertise with industry- leading advanced measurement technology. This allows us to cover all of our clients’ assessment needs throughout the project lifecycle.
Tell us a bit more about the recent technology advancements in your sector?
On the weather analysis side, we now have access to more extensive and more reliable global weather data sets. Typically, annual energy production estimates in the wind sector are produced by using data from a met mast located on the site and correlat- ing that to another met mast nearby with a longer-term data record. This is intended to create a 30-40 year understanding of the wind resource.
However, there is significant risk involved with this approach, as the longer-term met mast may not be nearby and data it records may not be related to what is happening in practice at the wind farm.
Long-term synthetic data sets, produced by numerical weather simulation models, are becoming increasingly robust. By combining these data sets with the highly accurate observations collected by on-site measurement devices, we are able to make reliable forecasts to inform bankable production and revenue estimates.
When it comes to wind measurement hardware, the advent of remote sensing technology is arguably the biggest step forward in recent years. In the Indian market, where projects are commonly built in remote regions, the use of portable, ground-based sensors in place of, or to complement, met masts will be crucial.
The industry wide trend towards higher hub heights and larger rotor diameters will also be a driver in the deployment of remote sensing. Remote sensors can assess wind speed and direction at heights up to 200 metres, with important applications for both development and financing, but also for power curve testing and performance optimization.
What are your growth plans for the Indian market? What are the milestones you wish to achieve by the end of this fiscal?
India had 28.7GW of installed wind capacity as of December 2016, making it the 4th largest wind energy producer in the world. At the same time, the target of 60GW by 2022 translates into an average annual capacity addition of 6GW per year for the next 6 years.
This combination of huge installed capacity, coupled with a high rate of new capacity addition, makes India an attractive market for 3TIER. We see growth potential for our services and products across the entire wind energy value chain, from developers, OEMs and O&M providers, to banks and financial institutions. We aspire to grow at a rate higher than the market growth rate.
What have been the latest trends in demand for your products and services in India? Where do you see the next demand growth coming from?
While 3TIER has been traditionally been a strong player in India when it comes to due diligence services for the early development stages of wind farms and providing bankable Net Energy Production reports, we are now seeing strong demand for our range of services for operational assets.
These include our short-term forecasting services, which are based on advanced weather science employing proven numerical weather prediction (NWP) modeling, satellite technologies, and statistical techniques to provide a highly accurate short term forecast of wind energy production.
Several states in India are set to mandate short-term forecasting for renewable energy generation plants.
Another area where we see strong growth potential is in remote sensing technology. As I’ve already outlined, as turbine hub heights increase, measurement based on conventional met mast observations is becoming less viable. Vaisala’s Triton Wind Profiler is the leading SoDAR remote sensing system and we expect demand to grow as developers and operators seek a more reliable and versatile wind measurement solution for utility-scale wind farms in the near future.
On the solar side, we are also seeing growing demand in India for our online Solar Time Series and Solar Prospector tools, along with our SP-12 Solar Weather Station, which provides all of the instru- mentation solar developers and operators need to make bankable resource assessments.
Anything else you would like to add for our readers.
As part of Vaisala, we are a trusted assessment partner for hundreds of developers, engineering firms, and financiers, including many of the largest and most successful energy companies in the world.
We have performed wind energy assessments on all 6 continents, many in challenging locations, and our experience includes over 40GW of proposed and operating wind projects.
3TIER India is committed to offering its world class services, products and tools to the Indian renewable energy market as we seek to help the industry achieve its objective of designing, building and operating highly productive assets that set a high standard of financial performance for many years to come.