Solar Energy, a great opportunity for Thailand
Nowadays, experts are trying to make people understand that they can be active players in a sustainable world, threatened by climate issues, by taking actions at their own scale.
In a serie of four articles, we will discuss how using solar energy power supplies electricity and hot water, how to reduce carbon footprint and how to manage water and plastic bags waste help us preserve a more sustainable and environmentally friendly world.
Supplying your building with renewable energy, such as solar energy, is a good way to reduce the overall consumption of your building, while contributing to a more sustainable planet.
What is the potential of Thailand in terms of solar energy?
Sun being the major and most powerful natural source of heat and light, solar energy is an efficient source of clean energy to use in buildings. It uses sun radiation to create electricity and hot water, and is mobilized using panels and mirrors.
Due to its tropical climate, Thailand has a solar power potential thanks to its great exposure to sun radiation, mostly in southern and northern regions. As a matter of fact, according to the Ministry of Energy in Thailand, “the combine solar potential area accounts for around 14,3% of the country’s overall area, gaining average daily solar exposure at approximately 19-20 MJ/m2/day”.
The country is in fact an excellent candidate for solar energy power.
Implementing solar energy in buildings has several benefits, that make this source of energy one of the most promising.
Sun is a natural source available planet-wide and thus renewable, which helps solar energy contribute to the global warming slow-down. Moreover, solar energy does not produce greenhouse gases and does not pollute land or water in its utilization, which makes it a clean source of energy.
In addition of protecting the environment, solar energy has its economic benefits. The typical solar panel has a payback period of 7 years, which means anything after that is free energy. For example, in Thailand, if the lifetime of your solar water heater is 15 years that would mean you will pay back the amount in 7 years, so you would have free electricity for the next 8 years, which is more than half of its lifetime.
Another way is when you are connected to the grid, you can sell directly the energy you produce at higher rate than what you would have bought from the government. So, you will make money by having a positive impact on the environment.
There are innovative financial models for those who are shy of putting the upfront cost. As a matter of fact, there are ESCO companies, which pay for the full installation and provides you with the clean energy generated on the property against a fee that is less than the actually savings.
As mentioned above, solar energy can be a great source of electricity and commonly used for water heating.
Solar panels are usually fixed on roofs, where it is more suitable to harvest sun radiation. A building’s roof is also the ideal location for solar panels, as it is unused space.
In fact, according to the Magazine Forbes, "100 square meters of solar panels help keeping a 100 watt light bulb running for an entire year with 8 days, 8 hours and 14 seconds of energy needed".
In Thailand, Ikea has placed around 4,000 solar panels on Bangkok’s Magabangna shopping mall rooftop. “This installation has provided power to more than 200 homes in Thailand, while reducing about 716,000 kg of carbon dioxide emissions each year”, according to Eco-Business.
Another use of solar energy is solar water heating systems. Composed of a water tank and solar panel, the water from solar thermal panel will heat under the action of the sun. This water goes to the water heater and heat and diffuses water that has been stored.
In Thailand, the business hotel Shangri-La Hotel, has installed solar panels across a 938 m2 space on the rooftop to power a solar water heating system. According to the Vice-president and General Manager of the Hotel, “the hotel reduce hot water energy consumption as well as reducing expenditures on liquefied petroleum gas by up to 30%, which equals savings of 2,7 million Baht each year.”
Systems such as mirrors and water tubes can also accommodate for direct water heating.
Thailand being a suitable country for solar energy, the government has implemented policies to help develop this source of energy, endorsing its environmental and financial benefits.
In 2015, Thailand’s Integrated Energy Blueprint Plan has been launched, highlighting the goals Thailand wanted to reach from 2015 to 2036. This plan is divided into the Power Development Plan (PDP) to respond to changes in the economic and infrastructure development and the ASEAN Economic Community, the Energy Efficiency Plan (EEP) to reduce the expendable use of energy and improve energy efficiency, the Alternative Energy Development Plan (AEDP) to source 30% of the country’s total energy consumption from renewables sources and the Oil Plan to support fuel management in line with the goal of energy conservation plan and AEDP.
Gathering the policies established and encouraged by the Thai government, and the potential of the country in terms of solar radiation, Thailand aims to become a more responsible country and is working to make Bangkok a green city, in line with the smart city plan of Thailand 4.0.