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Renewable Energy: Solar

"Lopburi 2.25MW solar farm

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” - Thomas Edison, 1931

The Solar industry has developed slowly since Edisons poignant comments in 1931, and it is only in the last 12 months that the convergance of low material costs, global tech catch up, increased demand and the reality that solar is no longer an option but the only real wide scale alternative to the worlds dependance on fossil fuels that are now depleting.

 

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/12/01/379550/one-third-world-energy-solar-2060-iea/

Renewable energy is surpassing fossil fuels for the first time in new power-plant investments, shaking off setbacks from the financial crisis….

Electricity from the wind, sun, waves and biomass drew $187 billion last year compared with $157 billion for natural gas, oil and coal, according to calculations by Bloomberg New Energy Finance using the latest data. Accelerating installations of solar- and wind-power plants led to lower equipment prices, making clean energy more competitive with coal.

 

Dec 2011: The international Energy Agency is notoriously conservative on projections for renewable energy.

http://www.pv-magazine.com/news/details/beitrag/eupd-research–ieas-pv-forecast-too-low_100004990/

The agency has embraced the need for more clean electricity and fuels to address climate change and peak oil, but its outlook for the future is usually far more conservative than how reality plays out.

So when an official at the IEA says we could get up to one third of our global energy supply from solar photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, and solar hot water by 2060, that’s a fairly big piece of news. But even that projection may be conservative.

Speaking to Bloomberg News, the head of IEA’s renewable energy unit explained said he thought the target is feasible:

“The strength of solar is the incredible variety and flexibility of applications, from small scale to big scale,” Paolo Frankl, the agency’s head of renewable energy, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Economic activity will shift toward the sunnier zones around the equator by 2050, making solar energy a viable power source for most of the global economy, the report said. Those regions will be home to almost 80 percent of the human race by the middle of the century, compared with about 70 percent today, and their energy needs will be higher as living standards in countries such as Brazil and India approach those of the U.S. and Europe.

The IEA is clearly responding to the fast-changing world of solar energy. It has released a new publication, Solar Energy Perspectives, that mirrors one of its flagship research products, Energy Technology Perspectives.

http://www.iea.org/index_info.asp?id=2257

 

But in its recent World Energy Outlook, IEA barely gave solar much attention.

http://www.iea.org/weo/

The organization predicted fairly modest growth in the solar PV and CSP sector through 2035, with a projection that it would only make up 4.5% of electricity supply.

While solar only makes up a fraction of the global electricity supply today, the downward cost curve of technologies is pushing it toward a breaking point. By sometime in 2012, the installed cost of a crystalline-silicon solar PV system over 1 MW in the U.S. could dip to around $2.50 a watt. At around 2$ a watt we could cost-competitively meet around 30% of global electricity supply, says solar expert and Carbon War Room CEO Jigar Shah.

Shah believes solar can reach a 5% penetration level in the U.S. by 2020, with cost reductions coming mostly from innovations in hardware and installation, not dramatic improvements in the lab.

While the IEA is far less ambitious in its projections, the agency seems to agree that a “systems-based approach” to manufacturing and installation will be the key driver to reaching high penetration levels of different solar technologies. And rather than focus on specific subsidies for solar in the long-term, IEA says the most important incentive will be a price on carbon.

Solar is clearly proving itself without a price on carbon. With an effective pricing regime in place, a 30% penetration would almost certainly be low.

 http://solarknowledge.blogspot.com/2011/12/solar-power-cloudy-outlook.html

Refined from silicon, the most abundant element in the earth’s crust, polysilicon got very pricey a few years ago, reaching $500 per kilogram. That was annoying for microchip manufacturers, but a serious problem for makers of photovoltaic panels.

The pricing crunch led to a wave of investment in polysilicon capacity that came on stream just as some governments trimmed subsidies. With even the most efficient photovoltaic energy still 40 per cent pricier than it needs to be without such assistance, the 90 per cent plus drop in polysilicon prices is fuelling a glut in panels. But it is not making them quite cheap enough to spur incremental demand. This year IMS Research estimated that about 10 gigawatts of unsold panels had piled up, equivalent to a quarter of all installations in the industry’s history. Oversupply of panels from China has pushed some manufacturers into bankruptcy.

Even as U.S. and European polysilicon producers such as Hemlock Semiconductor and Wacker Chemie are fighting to adapt, manufacturers from China are behaving as recklessly as their panel makers. LDK Solar, a vertically-integrated Chinese producer that just lowered profit guidance and took a charge to write down inventory, plans to triple its polysilicon capacity in the next three years. Daqo New Energy reported a halving of profits this week, but said it would carry on with expansion plans. GCL-Poly Energy, China’s largest polysilicon manufacturer, also said this week that it would borrow money to grow further.

Water eventually finds its level. So will polysilicon. But throwing more capacity into a market enduring a glut means it may take quite a while. Raw materials that are cheap, but not cheap enough to stimulate fresh demand, will leave weaker players gasping for air.

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-news/global-exchange/financial-times/solar-power-cloudy-outlook/article2239237/

Asian Solar Solutions

With an estimated 900 million people in Asia still lacking access to electricity, most beyond the reach of grid development and centralized generation, localized solar plants are a viable solution.
The distributed power generation potential of large-scale solar systems can help sustainably meet the challenge of supplying affordable clean energy to Asia’s large and growing population.

A number of countries with far-flung islands, such as Indonesia, Maldives, the Philippines, and others in the Pacific region, have very high costs for electricity and solar energy is a feasible way to replace their expensive fossil fuels.

Asia is witnessing the emergence of some of the largest solar promotion programs globally, such as the National Solar Mission in India, the Golden Sun program of the PRC, and Thailand’s Small Power Producer scheme for renewable energy. If these programs are able to achieve the scale envisaged, they have the potential to create a huge wave of demand which, in turn, will spur innovation, efficiency in production, and cost reduction in solar energy applications, consequently increasing the competitiveness of solar energy against traditional and alternative energy sources around the world.

Many developing countries in the region have ideal conditions for harnessing solar power, but as Seethapathy Chander, Chair of the Energy Community of Practice at ADB explains, the steep up-front costs of solar projects, high borrowing costs, and the lack of access to long-term capital are stalling solar energy growth. ASEI plans to overcome these constraints by boosting the development of enough grid-scale projects so that the cost of solar electricity to consumers will reach “grid parity” much sooner.

Projects Under Consideration
• Four demonstration CSP projects in the PRC—50 MW in each of
four provinces

• Private, large-scale PV and solar thermal projects under concessions
in five provinces in the PRC, in collaboration with state utilities and
private distribution companies

• Solar power transmission project in Gujarat, India, that will enable
about 500 MW of solar power generation capacity to be connected
to the grid

• Several projects enabling the implementation of grid-connected solar
power in India via the public–private partnership route

• A 5 MW grid-connected solar PV demonstration project and two
off-grid, solar–wind hybrid plants (0.5 MW–1 MW) in Bangladesh

• Various technical assistance activities to enable solar energy
development in Uzbekistan, such as solar resource mapping and
assessment; establishment of a solar energy regional center;
and development of policies, regulations, and technical codes
and standard

• Solar energy projects in the Philippines in collaboration with the Clean
Technology Fund under the Climate Investment Funds administered by
the World Ban

+ Thailand Solar Industry, already a world leader:

http://www.phuketword.com/news/thailandnews/solar-power-plants-under-construction-in-thailand

At least two solar power plants are currently under construction just outside Bangkok: an 8-billion-baht project in Lop Buri Province and another smaller power plant in Ayutthya Province.

According to the National News Bureau of Thailand’s Public Relations Department, the solar power plant in Lopburi is the ‘largest in the world’ and will produce 73 megawatts when its complete’, at the end of 2012. The solar farms in Lopburi actually total 200MW and are made up of 38 6MW installations. The equipment is from Kyocera and finance partially by ADB, the Asian development bank under its Asia solar energy initiative (see below)

The solar power plant in Ayutthaya Province will be producing 38 megawatts by the end of 2011, according to solar panel manufacturer and supplier Suntech Power Holdings Co.

Major investor in the Ayutthaya solar power project, Bangchak Petroleum PCL, reportedly plans to invest heavily in 11 solar power plants planned in the surrounding area under a government initiative to provide 20% of the country’s energy needs through renewable sources by 2022.

The Lopburi solar power plant will comprise about half a million solar panels and is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emission by over 1.3 million tons a year and reduce the need for imported fuel by over 35,000 tons a year.

Spain and Germany currently top the list for having the largest solar power plants in the world, producing 60 megawatts and 54 megawatts respectively; however, a new1,900-acre solar power plant is under construction in the US state of Arizona and is expected to be producing 280 megawatts by 2012.

Thailand’s King Bhumipol Adulyadej has long been a proponent of  sustainable development and the Thai government’s 1.2-billion-baht renewable energy initiativecommemorates the auspicious occasion of His Majesty’s 60th anniversary of his coronation and his 84th birthday in 2011.

The Lopburi Solar Plant. The 73-megawatt Lopburi solar power plant in central Thailand is the largest solar photovoltaic project in the world. It will be central to Thailand’s efforts to generate energy from renewable sources.

Asia Solar Energy Initiative: Background

http://www.adb.org/documents/brochures/solar-energy-initiative/brochure-solar-energy-initiative.pdf

The Asia Solar Energy Initiative (ASEI) was launched by ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda on 3 May 2010 during ADB’s 43rd Annual Meeting of its Board of Governors in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

It aims to create a virtuous cycle of solar energy investments in the region, toward achieving grid parity, so that ADB’s developing member countries optimally benefit from this clean and inexhaustible energy resource.

ASEI aims to assist the implementation of 3,000 MW of solar power in Asia and the Pacific over the next 3 years through solar project identification and development, provision of innovative financing,and knowledge management such as through the Asia Solar Energy Forum (ASEF).

ADB plans to provide up to $2.25 billion in financing for solar projects under ASEI, and expects to leverage an additional $6.75 billion

in solar power investments over the same period.

 

ADB together with its partners, the International Energy Agency (IEA), Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEP) and United Nations Industrial Organization (UNIDO), introduced the Asia Solar Energy Forum (ASEF) as part of a broader initiative to accelerate the development of solar energy in Asia and the Pacific, by providing a platform to share and process knowledge on technology, standards, experiences, policies, incentives, risk mitigation strategies, long-term financing, and approaches to exploit economies of scale

http://beta.adb.org/news/events/asia-solar-energy-forum-third-meeting

Understanding Solar Technology
There are two widely used technologies for converting sunlight into electricity—photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP).

According to the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, solar PV is the fastest-growing power generation technology globally and is used in more than 100 countries. PV uses solar cells made of semiconductors to convert solar energy directly into electricity. PV advantages include modular construction, which allows grid connection to occur in stages. 

PV conversion is the direct conversion of sunlight into electricity with no intervening heat engine. PV solar systems require few on-site staff and can be operated remotely, with washing PV panels as the main maintenance. Electricity storage is still problematic so power can only be utilized during daylight hours. PV generates direct current (DC), which must be converted to alternating current (AC) to be compatible with electricity grids.

CSP technology uses mirrors to focus solar energy to produce heat, which is used to produce electricity through a conventional steam turbine. CSP has higher operating costs than PV systems but power generation is highly predictable. CSP systems can include thermal storage, enabling electricity to be provided around the clock. Integrated Solar Combined Cycle (ISCC) power plants use two sources of energy—solar and gas (fossil fuel)—to produce electricity. This hybrid system lowers the use of fossil fuels and reduces the cost of the solar energy plant by using the same power block (steam turbine).

PV technology uses solar panels to convert solar irradiation directly into electricity.

CSP technology concentrates the sun’s energy to produce heat, which is transformed into electricity through a conventional steam turbine.

Renewable energy is surpassing fossil fuels for the first time in new power-plant investments, shaking off setbacks from the financial crisis….

Electricity from the wind, sun, waves and biomass drew $187 billion last year compared with $157 billion for natural gas, oil and coal, according to calculations by Bloomberg New Energy Finance using the latest data. Accelerating installations of solar- and wind-power plants led to lower equipment prices, making clean energy more competitive with coal.

 

 

ForVEI Acquires Three Solar Power Plants From the OPDE Group in Italy for 55 Million Euros, that generates 13.2MW of power. Gives current 2011 operational value benchmark.

• The three solar photovoltaic power plants located in the Italian region of Piamonte (Tortona and Alessandria) have a total of 13.2 MW of power and are 100% operational. • The purchase has been financed by the Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo SPA, which will own these plants for the next 18 years, while the ForVEI investment company pays a monthly lease to operate the plants. • The operation will be complemented by the purchase of additional solar farms by ForVEI from the OPDE Group in Italy in October. • This is the largest finance leasing contract ever signed with a single bank in Italy for investment in solar photovoltaic power. • The General Manager of the OPDE Group, José Antonio Mieres, stresses the importance of the operation for the multinational company, which will soon begin construction on new solar farms in Italy.

 

Bangkok Post 8th February 2012

Thai NHA promotes solar power

http://www.bangkokpost.com/business/economics/278773/nha-taps-renewable-energy

The National Housing Authority (NHA) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Cellennium (Thailand), the sole licensee of vanadium fuel-cell manufacturers, and property developer Horseshoe Point Co.

The three partners will collaborate to build energy-saving housing projects that will use renewable power. The project is targeted at middle- and low-income earners.

Vitoon Jiasakul, NHA’s governor, said the three parties will jointly study ways to develop the project using renewable energy. The preferred choice is solar power installed on the roofs of each house.

Homeowners can use the electricity generated for free while excess output can be sold back to the grid.

The NHA plans to develop 50,000 units under this concept in Greater Bangkok from 2012-18.

The first phase will cover 25 projects with 15,000 units.

Residents will share the installation cost of 1,000 baht a month for the first eight years in order to receive free power.

Krisada Kampanatsanyakorn, the chairman of Cellennium (Thailand), said the vanadium redox-flow battery technology was created for electric storage and power generation providing unlimited capacity.

The battery can be recharged simply by replacing the electrolyte if there is no available power source to charge it.

Horseshoe Point used the technology at its project in Pattaya and lowered monthly power bills by 50%, with a 100% cut _ meaning it will be free _ expected in the future.

Bangkok Post 8th February 2012

Thai renewables: Power to the people

http://www.bangkokpost.com/business/telecom/278780/power-to-the-people

 

If the size of your household or business electricity bill is starting to get you down, it’s time to turn on to new ways to save power and money.

Advanced and green technologies that help improve energy management and reduce electricity consumption as well as carbon emissions are starting to become mainstream. They include smart grid technology, smart homes, electric vehicles and clean energy sources.

The new developments also open opportunities for businesses and government organisations to add value to their products and services, says Parinya Sonsaard, an engineer with the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA).

“Consumers in the near future will have enough information to manage their electricity use on a real-time basis. They could even sell back [unused] energy to the power grid,” he said.

Smart metering systems, for example, allow homeowners or business operators to track the status of their power usage almost anywhere on a personal computer, tablet or smartphone.

Because electricity providers charge more for power at times of the day when demand is high, knowing how much electricity you’re using at any given time could help you save money. Mr Parinya believes the use of smart metering will encourage users to avoid electricity use during peak times if they can. It also would allow power plants to better manage production capacity and eliminate the risk of power outages.

Householders could see tangible benefits from simple changes. For example, a smart grid could turn on selected home appliances such as washing machines at off-peak hours for the cheapest rates.

The PEA itself is transforming its conventional power system to smart grid technology, using information communications technology to better manage, monitor and control generation, transmission and distribution of power.

“We plan to adopt smart grid technology within 15 years to help develop our power distribution and generation systems to serve more alternative clean energies and accommodate 15 million household users,” said Mr Parinya.

Under a six-year plan starting this year, the PEA plans pilot projects to build automated electricity networks in four cities including Pattaya.

At the recent BoI Fair, the PEA showcased a model home using rooftop solar panels, which produced energy that could be stored in batteries during the daytime for use as electricity at night. Users could also sell their surplus electricity back to the PEA.

For household solar power to be successful, Mr Parinya recommends the panels be installed facing south for maximum exposure to sunlight, and they should cover at least 30% of the roof surface.

Solar power is one of the areas on which the PEA will focus as it seeks to reduce reliance on fossil fuel and use more renewable energy sources, he said.

The adoption of clean energy is still not very widespread in Thailand, mainly because of the expense, although costs of renewables including solar are coming down fast. Mr Parinya said the government needs to provide incentives and attractive buyback prices to draw more users.

On the country’s roads, meanwhile, the PEA is planning for more widespread use of electric cars. At the BoI Fair it showed off an electricity charging station designed for use at homes and in public areas including parking areas, department stores or the sides of expressways.

Besides the shortage of charging points, the biggest obstacle to the take-up of electric vehicles is price. Mr Parinya says the government needs to lower the import tax for electric cars to promote the use of clean-energy vehicles and encourage automakers to consider assembling the units locally.

Nissan, for example, is keen to market its all-electric Leaf in Thailand. The Japanese company believes the Leaf should be priced to compete with the Thai-assembled Toyota Prius, a petrol-electric hybrid, at around 1.2 million baht. However, Thailand’s high 80% import duty would put the price of the Leaf well above 2 million baht.

Also at the BoI Fair, and in keeping with its “Going Green for the Future” theme, Samsung Electronics, Toshiba, LG, Hitachi and Panasonic were showcasing their smart-home and energy-saving products.

Samsung displayed a tablet that it says could serve as a central control for all electrical and electronic devices. LG presented its Thinq technology, allowing users to monitor and control refrigerators, washing machines, ovens and robotic vacuum cleaners by using smartphones or tablets. Toshiba showed off energy-saving appliances with smart metering systems that display each device’s power usage.

Sony, meanwhile, introduced its prototype Bio Battery, which generates electricity by turning rice into sugar which in turn is used as fuel.

 

Thailand Joins the Solar Fast Lane

By Jeremy Wilcox, Contributor, Renewable Energy World
April 10, 2012   

A recent installation inLopburiProvinceprovesThailand’s credentials as a magnet for large-scale solar developers, and the pace of expansion is unlikely to flag.

 

BANGKOK– Economic renewable energy development typically requires that countries exploit their natural renewable resources with subsidies reducing in line with technology costs and market maturity.Thailandhas adopted such an approach to renewable development and while its biomass has the greatest renewable generation potential, the rapid growth of solar development could conceivably see solar challenge wind power as the kingdom’s second most important renewable resource by the next decade.

As a country,Thailandbenefits from strong year-round solar radiation with the largely rural northeast Isaan region of the country benefitting most. It is not surprising then that Solar Power Company (SPC), a Thai developer, has plans for 34 solar plants in Isaan totalling 204 MW by the end of 2012. But while SPC will likely be the major player inThailand’s fast-developing solar sector, the honour of developing the largest solar plant to date will go to Natural Energy Development (NED), a cooperation of local and foreign financial institutions together with manufacturer Sharp Corporation.

NED is constructing a 73 MW (DC) solar plant in Lopburi province, about two hours north of Bangkok, and earlier this year the company announced it would expand the gross capacity of the plant to 84 MW (DC). The first phase of the plant is due to commence operations as REW goes to press, with an installed capacity of 8 MW and additional capacity expected to come on line in monthly phases until the full capacity is reached in 2013.

The project has been supported by local and foreign financial institutions; the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has provided a loan up to US$70 million (approximately THB 2 billion), with Kasikorn Bank PCL, Bangkok Bank PCL and Siam Commercial Bank PCL providing a total of THB 3 billion (about $98 million). Kasikorn Bank PCL and Bualuang Securities PCL also acted as the financial advisors. And, all the banks involved have agreed to expand the loan facility to support another THB 1.2 billion (around $39 million) for the 11 MW second phase expansion.

Commenting on the project, NED chairman Vinit Tangnoi said: ‘The Lopburi solar project is the first project that responds to the Thailand 15 Year Renewable Energy Development Plan of the Ministry of Energy. After committing to invest THB 8 billion in the Lopburi 73 MW solar farm, the company is moving forward and plans to invest another THB 1.2 billion for an additional 11 MW in the same area.’

Vinit explained that NED signed the construction and supply contract to purchase over 540,000 thin-film solar panels from Sharp back in 2010. He added: ‘The company has also signed agreement for construction with Italian Thai Development PCL and Italthai Engineering Co. Ltd.’ ‘Furthermore,’ he concluded, ‘the project plans to develop a renewable innovation centre on the site, to showcase renewable energy technologies, especially solar technology to the general public. Together with Pa Sak Dam and Sunflower Field, this will become the third tourism landmark in Lopburi province.’

NED has signed a five-year non-firm power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) for purchasing 55 MW from the commercial operation date. Although this was originally scheduled for 1 November the date slipped a month to December 2011. NED said the tariff rate stated in the regulation of non-firm power purchase agreements for a small power producer (SPP) will be applied, that is, the time of use wholesale electricity price plus the adder [a supplement added to peak electricity rates] rate.

NED managing director Woramol Khamkanist believes Lopburi province is the most suitable place for the solar project ‘because it is well connected with transmission line[s] and has good solar intensity,’ adding that the plant, when fully operational, is expected to cut approximately 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 over its project cycle and reduce fossil fuel imports by more than 35,000 tonnes per year, which will support the Thai government target announced in Copenhagen in 2009 to combat climate change.

While the NED solar project will beThailand’s largest, it will be dwarfed by the combined installed capacity of the solar projects planned by SPC. And like NED there has been no shortage of funding for its solar revolution, withThailandfast becoming a magnet for solar investment.

In November 2010, International Finance Company (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group and the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in developing countries, invested $1.1 million for a 9% equity stake in two of SPC’s planned solar plants following a $1.7 million investment in SPC’s first 6.1 MW solar plant in Nakhorn Rachasriuma (Korat) in June 2010, known as Solar Power (Korat 1) Company Limited (KR1).

KR1 is located atDonChomphuSub-district, Non Sung District, inNakhornRatchasimaProvince. Development of the project commenced in 2008, with the project receiving long-term loans from Kasikornbank PCL. Construction commenced in December 2009 and it was completed in April 2010, with commercial operation and exports to the Provincial Electricity Authority commencing on 21 April 2010.

Before the Lopburi plant, KR1 was the largest commercial solar farm inThailandand indeed inSoutheast Asia. The plant uses polycrystalline solar panels fromJapan’s Kyocera Corporation and inverters fromGermany’s SMA Solar Technology. The major shareholders of KR1 are SPC, IFC, the Environment for Energy Foundation and Thai Fa Power Company Limited.

SPC plans to replicate the KR1 plant model across the northeast ofThailand, with another eight solar plants envisaged in NakhornRachasrima, 10 in Khon Kaen, three each in Bureerum, Surin and Nakorn Phanom, two each in Sakon Nakorn and Udorn Thani, and one each in Nong Kai and Loei districts.

According to IFC executive vice president and chief executive Lars Thunell, ‘Developing countries need new sources of energy that allow them to grow their economies without adding to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change… SPC is showing how companies can innovate and make solar energy a long-term solution for Thailand’s energy needs.’

Another Thai energy company that has identified the opportunities provided by solar power is oil company Bangchak Petroleum, which secured a THB 4.2 billion loan from the Asian Development Bank last year for two solar power plants in Ayuttaya, north ofBangkok. The loan is part of the ADB’s Asia Solar Energy Initiative that seeks to support solar projects to assistAsiain capitalising on its solar power potential. The initiative aims to provide financial support of $2.25 billion to meet 3 GW of solar power in the bank’s developing member countries by mid-2013.

 

Solar installations continue to rise, despite cuts to the adder support scheme (Source: Asian Development Bank)

The ADB loan will run over a 15-year repayment period, according to Bangchak Petroleum president Anusom Sangnimuan, who further explained the company is seeking to raise the capacity of the solar project to 120 MW in five years at a cost of some THB 12 billion (about $39 million).

The first solar plant, with a rated capacity of 38 MW, started supplying electricity to the national grid in August 2011, with construction of the second 32 MW plant now underway. The third plant, with a capacity of 48 MW, is expecetd to commence construction in 2012 and will be due to commence operations in the following year.

DuPont Apollo also recently completed its 8.7 MW solar photovoltaic plant in Prachin Buri province, 180 km north ofBangkok. The plant was jointly developed with Thai conglomerate Loxley and utilises DuPont Apollo’s thin-film photovoltaic modules. Electricity from the plant will be supplied via the Provincial Electricity Authority of Thailand under the VSPP (very small power purchase) tariff scheme.

In addition to solar projects already in operation or construction there are a number of companies eyeingThailandas a solar development hub. Among these are the world’s largest solar module manufacturing company, Suntech Power Holdings, andNorth America’s largest solar services provider, SunEdison.

 

SPC solar projects planned, operating and under construction (Souce: SPC)

Suntech is looking to invest $20 million (THB 1.2 billion) in a solar cell assembly plant inThailand, but a final decision is not expected until 2013 as it waits to see how supportive the new Thai government is of solar and any changes to the adder support system. Any investment in the Thai solar market may well be a partnership, with the company apparently interested in joining forces with Bangchat Petroleum.

Thailandwas Suntech’s second-largest Asia-Pacific market in 2010 afterAustralia, with chairman and chief executive Shi Zhengrong recently explaining: ‘We are looking at opportunities for getting closer to the market, and we need to hear support from the government before planning our investment. Our plan could be feasible if the Thai market grows to a big enough level.’

Bangchat Petroleum president Anusorn believes the Thai government will come up with a clear renewable policy this year. If he is right, and the policy proves to be supportive of solar investment, then SunEdison could become a major player inThailand’s emerging solar sector, with plans to invest over $100 million (THB 3 billion) in solar power plants through a local partnership.

Pashupathy Gopalan, managing director of SunEdison, explained: ‘We hope to build a meaningful capacity, pending upcoming government approval of the 6.50 baht adder… There is great potential in Thailand and many parts of Asia as rapid growth results in higher demand for energy.’

For all the positive talk on the potential for Thailand’s solar market, like all renewable energy resources the key to developing the potential is the amount of subsidy provided by the government, which has been supporting solar development since 2002 when it introduced the adder.

Unfortunately for the embryonic solar PV market the adder was not considered sufficient. After a series of amendments in response to investor unease the government agreed on an adder rate of THB 8/kWh for a period of 10 years and the revised subsidy scheme proved a great success.

As of October 2010, applications for 397 PV projects totalling 1600 MW and an additional 302 concentrating solar power (CSP) projects totalling 1503 MW had been submitted to the VSPP programme. Additionally, eight solar projects totalling 477 MW had been submitted to the SPP programme. Yet a year later only 55 PV projects totalling just 16 MW were selling electricity to the Thai utilites, with no CSP projects online and the remaining 3500 MW of proposed projects in various stages of planning.

This volume of projects in the pipeline caused concern to policymakers, as it was significantly higher than the Thai solar targets of 55 MW by 2011, 95 MW by 2016, and 500 MW by 2022. But of more concern was the potential impact of solar tariffs on consumers of the 3 GW of pipeline projects, which policy makers estimated could add THB 31 billion (around $1 billion) to consumer costs.

Policymakers were also concerned that many pipeline projects could be speculative if they had not progressed in 12 months and as such could prevent legitimate projects from advancing. And there was concern that the potential volume of new solar projects could undermine the security of EGAT’s transmission system and consequently undermineThailand’s supply security.

These were all legitimate concerns andThailandis not the first country to review its solar subsidy levels in response to the success of the scheme. Consequently, a resolution reduced the adder to THB 6.5/kWh for all projects that were not approved as of 28 June 2010, and refused to accept new project applications after this date. Interestingly, the resolution also agreed in principle to work towards establishing a fixed FiT rather than an adder, but with a new government taking office within two months of the resolution being passed the development of such a tariff may be delayed until the new government gets round to revising any exisiting renewable energy policies.

Unsurprisingly the revised subsidy support has not deterred the main solar investors, with SPC managing director Wandee Khunchornyakong understanding the decision to reduce the rate: ‘I think they want to slow down the new applications until they can see how many of the projects with PPAs have reached their goals.’

But new potential developers have questioned the financial viability of solar investment at the current adder rate, and fear that the door for new entrants has now been firmly shut. It’s a legitimate concern, but almost 10 years after the government started its solar support the market has moved beyond its embryonic phase and into fast track development. And those companies investing in solar this decade are likely to enjoy a rewarding future. 

With 26,000 subscribers and a global readership in over 170 countries around the world, Renewable Energy World Magazine is targeted at those who make growth happen in renewable industries. Covering policy, technology, finance, markets and more, Renewable Energy World magazine covers all technologies and all markets. Published six times per year, a special Directory of Suppliers Issue is published in July/August which is distributed year round at key renewable energy events worldwide.

 

April 15, 2012

Apart from Solar there is excellent scope to harness Wind Energy in Thailand. I was in Phuket attending a meet on Sustainability. Since Thailandis rich in tourism,there is good scope for Biogas generation from Hotel wastes and farm wastes. In the vacant lands Agave can be grown and biofuel extracted from it.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com

 

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