Thailand’s floating solar farms will be the largest in the world


A series of solar energy farms that will float on nine of Thailand’s reservoirs will be the largest floating solar farms in the world when completed, exceeding the size and capacity of those in China, and supply one-tenth of the Kingdom’s clean energy.

“This seems to be a great combination of long-term and well-structured planning, with individual projects identified already,” said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis for BloombergNEF in London. “As the cost of solar equipment comes down, many developers are looking at water with grid connection.”

Thepparat Theppitak, a deputy governor of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), which is overseeing the effort, said that several of the proposed projects are more than double the size of the world’s largest floating system now. Combined output from all the floating solar fields would dwarf the 1.3 gigawatts of generation installed globally as of October, he said.

Thai officials announced several weeks ago that they planned to float solar panels on several of the Kingdom’s reservoirs formed by dams. At the time, however, the potential capacity of the power generation was unclear, as well as how that would compare to other similar projects in existence.

EGAT will float 16 solar farms with a combined capacity of more than 2.7 gigawatts on nine of its hydroelectric dam reservoirs by 2037, said Thepparat. Thailand is already the leading nation in Southeast Asia for generating power from solar and wind sources.

Floating solar tends to be more expensive than the ground-mounted units that dominate the sector. Thepparat said, however, that locating the plants at existing hydropower reservoirs means EGAT won’t need to spend as much on infrastructure.

Floating systems are about 18 percent more expensive on average, according to the World Bank. However, the projects bypass land use in forests and farmlands, and water can also help to cool the solar panels, increasing the efficiency by 10 percent, Thepparat said.

The solar panels will already be tied into the grid, and the system will improve the overall output of the hydropower plants, he said. In the future, the company will also use lithium-ion batteries to store electricity produced by the floating plants.