The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world. This is a moment of truth for people and the planet alike. Covid and climate have brought us to a threshold and we have to move forward sustainably. The good news is that there is a lot of work being done all over the world to move towards renewable energy and Thailand has created the world’s largest solar floating farm according to news reports. The facility, which generates power on a water surface of 72 hectares, was originally scheduled for operation in December last year, but the launch was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I read an article in Thailand business news which stated that the state run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) expects to operate a 45 megawatt floating solar farm it claims to be the largest in the world this June. EGAT signed a contract with B. Grimm Power Plc, which will serve as an engineering, procurement and construction firm to develop photovoltaic panels worth 842 million baht (28 million USD) on Sirindhorn Dam in Ubon Ratchathani, where an EGAT hydropower plant is operating. The floating solar farm is designed to be a hybrid system, working in tandem with 36MW of hydropower generation to increase optimisation capacity.
Local media quoted Chatchai Mawong, EGAT’s director for hydro and renewable energy power plant development, as saying that construction is now 82% complete. Workers began installing the first batch of floating solar panels in December 2020 and are speeding up installation. Under the 2018 National Power Development Plan, EGAT is committed to building more floating solar farms on all nine of its dams nationwide over the next 20 years, with a combined capacity of 2,725MW. It is also planning to adopt a modern energy management and energy storage systems, crucial to store electricity produced by solar panels. Mr. Sarit Witoon, Governor of Ubon Ratchathani province said, having a renewable energy pilot project that is essential for the country is an important step for Ubon Ratchathani province. The hydro-floating Solar Hybrid Project at Sirindhorn Dam will be a model project for developing renewable energy which will not only create stability for renewable energy by using hybrid energy systems, but also promote Ubon Ratchathani province to become an energy learning centre for students, scholars, and the general public. The project will also be developed into a new tourist attraction for the province to increase revenue for the community so it can become sustainably self-reliant.
After reading this article, I wanted to understand more about solar energy development plans in Thailand so I got in touch with Franck Constant, CEO of Constant Energy. Franck has over 20 years of experience working in the independent power industry and 10 years in solar PV. Prior to founding Constant Energy, Franck cofounded Sonnedix, a solar IPP in 2009 and as board member and President developed the business into a global solar IPP fund present in 8 countries, including France, UK, Japan, Thailand, South Africa, with world class development, project finance, construction and asset management capabilities. Franck moved into the power generation industry in 1995 by joining Sithe Energies Inc. in Bangkok where he worked for five years developing Sithe’s power projects and business in SE Asia. During this period, Sithe became Thailand’s leading foreign IPP, with new assets worth over $500 million. He has continued in the power generation industry since 2002., working as Director for Business Development for Sithe in Korea and subsequently for Mirant Asia-Pacific in NE Asia. In these roles, he successfully structured, financed and managed over $1 billion of greenfield power projects and acquisitions for Sithe and Mirant. Franck started an energy consulting firm in 2002 by establishing Asia Energy Resources, subsequently acquired by AWR Lloyd, an energy advisory firm in 2006, becoming a partner in AWR Lloyd till 2010, providing advisory services to oil, power and mining companies.
I asked him about the solar energy development targets for Thailand and he told me that the previous government target was 3GW by 2030, now 10GW by 2030 and they are on track to meet that. His personal view is that solar will be way above 10GW installed by 2030 in Thailand, since it is the lowest cost power source for Thailand, especially with recent 3x increase in spot LNG/gas prices globally. Franck mentioned that he believes that the clean energy disruption is gaining pace and will continue globally. He further spoke about the investment strategy and markets for Constant Energy, “Renewable energies and smart grid are the future and a global growth market with tremendous investment requirements globally over the next 20 year. The ever higher penetration of intermittent renewable energy creates the need for power storage to mitigate intermittency and offer low-cost stable and constant renewable power. Constant Energy has specialised on an area that uses sources for energy production with an absence of fuel costs/risks and whose cost have been dropping drastically among energy sources: Photovoltaics (PV), floating PV and battery storage. These investments are attractive to us, as efficiency enhancements and cost reductions are making power generation from PV and Storage increasingly more cost-efficient and competitive. They are enabling companies in Thailand to join the renewable resolution by installing solar plants for them at zero upfront cost under long-term contracts.
Strong country regulatory track record, high quality assets, long term global and local partnerships are the key factors when investing profitably in our sector. Our investment decisions are based on extensive expert analysis, existing experience and successful track record in the countries where we invest, and direct asset management. Our initial focus is on emerging Asia and Africa for utility solar PV generation investments as well as developed markets for utility battery storage investments.”
If you want to know more about Constant Energy, you can get in touch with Franck Constant directly, his email is [email protected].