Renewable energy on the rise in Thailand

Renewable energy is on the rise in Thailand as a consortium announced it had secured financing to build five new onshore wind farms that will generate 450 megawatts of power, while the break-even period for investments in solar farms has dropped dramatically, and another consortium announced plans to build a biogas refinery.

The five new wind farms will be built by Wind Energy Holding (WEH), with General Electric of the United States, and Vestas of Denmark providing turbines and other equipment to the projects. GE is expected to provide at least 90 turbines. WEH has been described by The Nation newspaper as one of Southeast Asia’s leading renewable energy companies, and part of the KPN Group, a Thai real estate development firm.

Thailand is the leader in Southeast Asia in solar and wind energy production, although the contribution of renewable energies to the country’s overall power production is small at this time. The government has set a target, however, to source 20 percent of the Kingdom’s power from renewables by 2036. Currently, renewables make up just 8 percent of power consumption, while natural gas dominates at 64 percent and clean coal accounts for 20 percent. Thailand consumed over 30,000 megawatts of electricity in 2015.

The five wind farms will cost $1.13 billion and are expected to be completed and producing power by the first quarter of 2019. Construction has already begun on the projects, which are all located in Nakhorn Ratchasima and Chaiyaphum provinces in the northeast of the country. WEH already operates wind farms that produce 270 megawatts of power.

Solar power provides more energy in Thailand today than wind power. The Thai Photovoltaic Industries Association said last week that the prospects for solar power consumption in the country are bright despite government policy and regulations on solar power.

Falling prices on solar panels and other equipment, along with additional incentives, are fueling growth in solar power adoption and consumption. Consumers, home and building owners have been taking advantage of the cost savings solar power can provide, installing rooftop panels and systems and availing themselves of a wide variety of business models offered by energy companies.

“There is no need to subsidize solar farms anymore, and that is the reason why nobody is waiting on the government policy to free up the system,” said Dusit Kruangam, chairman of the association. “They can start developing their own solar farms and solar rooftops now, since the costs have already been cut.”

The growth of solar power has been difficult to quantify because of rapid development of off-grid power from small rooftop systems, according to the Energy Regulatory Commission.

Meanwhile, Osaka Gas of Japan said last week it has collaborated with Agriculture of Basin Company of Thailand to launch a biogas refinery pilot project and test the feasibility of using its output to supply natural gas for vehicles.

The Thai company plans to use waste from its palm oil production as the raw material for its biogas. Thailand has an abundance of natural sources for biogas including sugar cane and food factory wastewater.