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Thailand’s new solar plants to float on dams and reservoirs

According to a recent report, Thailand solar energy plans are ambitious and revolutionary. The largest and oldest cement and building material company in Thailand and Southeast Asia aims to install a giant 45-megawatt floating solar farm at the Sirindhorn Dam — the first of eight dams that may receive the treatment.

Floating solar farms provide the benefits of solar energy without taking up valuable space on dry land in densely populated areas.

Other advantages include their comparative ease of installation and decommissioning, along with helping to reduce evaporation as a result of partially covering the water surface. During the approximately 10 years that floating photovoltaics have been around, they have garnered a particularly enthusiastic response in populous countries such as China, Japan, India, and South Korea.

It appears that Thailand is now eager to begin installing the panels as well.

The cement is among Southeast Asia’s biggest manufacturers of building materials. It has developed its own proprietary floating solar panels that it promises to build, install, and maintain.

The company’s panels are made from high-density polyethene, which is both durable and recyclable. The company claims that its panels will last for around half a century and take up approximately 10 per cent less space than the floating plants developed by rival companies.

The company plans to build a floating solar plant at Sirindhorn Dam is the first part of an ambitious floating solar panel project announced by Thailand’s state-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), according to a report.

The department has plans to build floating solar panels, with a total capacity of 1 gigawatt, across eight and reservoirs dams over the next couple of decades.

The Sirindhorn Dam will be the first of these, with four other projects to follow on soon after.

EGAT hopes to begin construction as soon as April 2019, although it has yet to reveal which company it is going to award the contract to.

Currently, Thailand generates around 12 per cent of its energy from sustainable sources. Thailand’s government hopes that initiatives, such as its floating solar plants, can help increase this to 37 per cent by 2036.

If everything goes according to plan, around 6 per cent of the country’s total power could come from floating solar farm projects such as this one.

According to an earlier report, the state-run utility Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) has announced that it planned to facilitate 1GW of hybrid floating solar-hydro projects across eight dams throughout the country.

The deputy governor stated that the plans complement the fact that Thailand already has a hydropower plan and the country wants to have a test bed for floating PV, he added. EGAT sees a potential water surface area of 16km2 across the eight dams earmarked for this first phase.

Alternative power plans

The governor’s update on installed solar capacity put PV at 2,551MW, although other delegates said that capacity had gone well beyond 3GW already.

EGAT’s figures show 1,656MW of solar installed in the central region, 504MW in the Northern region, 390MW in the Northeast, but just 1MW in the South.

The chairman of a China-based firm stated that since Thailand already has a huge focus on electric vehicles (EVs) and has much of the car industry manufacturing value chain in-country already, the proliferation of EVs should also help the Southeast Asian country to see decreased battery costs for stationary storage applications quicker than many people are expecting.

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