Hydro-solar plan for dams

Bright future: Workers walking between solar cell panels over the water surface of the Sirindhorn Dam in Ubon Ratchathani. — Reuters

THE nation is close to completing one of the world’s biggest floating hydro-solar hybrid projects on the surface of a dam, a step toward boosting renewable energy production after years of criticism for reliance on fossil fuels.

About 144,417 solar panels are being installed on a reservoir in the northeast province of Ubon Ratchathani, where workers are completing the last of seven solar farms covering 121ha of water.

The Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand (Egat) is touting the pilot project as one of the world’s largest hybrid hydro-solar power ventures, and aims to replicate it at eight more dams over the next 16 years.

“When all the projects are completed in every dam, we will have the total capacity to generate 2,725 megawatts, ” project head Chanin Saleechan said.

Thailand has long relied on coal for power, but plans for new coal-fired projects have been met with opposition over health risks and two proposed southern coal plants were shelved in 2018.

It aims to draw 35% of energy from non-fossil fuels by 2037.

Since November, Egat has been putting together floating solar platforms at the Sirindhorn dam, one of the country’s largest hydropower sites, which it says should be able to generate 45 megawatts of power.

An energy management system will be used to switch between solar and hydropower, depending on which can generate more electricity, a hybrid system that allows continuous power generation.

In August 2020, Egat governor Viboon Rerksirathai was quoted as saying that the state utility had power reserves of 40% of total capacity, but it planned to reduce those reserves to 15% to curb high electricity costs.

Witoon Permpongsacharoen, the director of Bangkok-based NGO Energy and Ecology Network, said the floating solar-hydro plan could create unnecessary and potentially costly excess capacity.“The issue here is that there is a high level of electricity reserves, so the investment in this green energy is being done without considering demand, ” he said.

“Of course we support the investment on renewable energy over fossil fuel. But our priority is also energy efficiency.” — Reuters

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