Earlier this year, Suntech supplied solar panels to the largest silicon photovoltaic power plant in Southeast Asia.
Thailand is known for its sunny beaches and warm hospitality, and its solar energy industry is now drawing attention as well. The ‘Sunny Bangchak’ solar plant, which went operational this year, is a 44-megawatt project located in Bang Pa-In, Ayutthaya, a district in central Thailand near Bangkok. Suntech was proud to supply the panels for Sunny Bangchak, which symbolizes Thailand’s emergence as a solar powerhouse.
Indeed, the Thai government has announced aggressive goals for renewable energy, including a plan to meet 20 percent of Thailand’s total energy consumption with renewables by 2022. That includes one gigawatt of solar capacity by 2020. It’s an ambitious goal for a developing nation, but the sun shines consistently in Thailand and energy experts say the country is well on track. Thailand enjoys many hours of solar irradiance; Bangkok, for example, enjoys a year-round average temperature of about 24 degrees Celsius, with 1,800 sunshine hours per year.
The country already has the most established photovoltaic industry in Southeast Asia, due in part to government policies. The government supports PV projects in the form of “adder premiums” of about US$0.20 per kWH, according to a PV magazine article about Sunny Bangchak. That’s paid on top of the retail price for electricity.
Solar companies are turning their attention toward Thailand; applications by solar companies to the Ministry of Energy for on-grid connections have already exceeded two gigawatts, according to SolarPVInvestor. Some industry watchers say Thailand has a way to go, beyond simply declaring installed capacity goals, to encourage development of solar there. And certain problems must be overcome, including the country’s incomplete solar supply chain and long processing times for subsidy applications. But the intention is there, projects are in the works and that’s a promising sign.
Let Sunny Bangchak be a shining example of Thailand’s energy future. Indeed, project partners have built an exhibition center at the site to educate the public and visitors about solar technology. Sunny Bangchak is owned by Bangchak Public Petroleum Co. and was constructed by engineering, procurement and construction partner Solartron Public Co. Bundit Sapianchai, senior executive vice president of Bangchak Public Petroleum Co., said the company chose to partner with Suntech because of its “excellent track record” and because its high efficiency panels are especially suited to Thailand’s hot and humid climate.
Project leaders estimate that Sunny Bangchak could reduce the need to import about 40,000 tons of coal and mitigate 32,000 tons of CO2 emissions. That’s the equivalent of planting 3,000,000 trees or removing 9,000 cars from the roads!
Clearly, Thailand is on the right path to expanding its renewable energy industry. Good thing, because the country depends heavily upon imported natural gas and other fossil fuels while its energy needs are rising rapidly. We think the country will be an exciting solar market to watch this coming decade and beyond.