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Thailand close to completing massive floating solar farm

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Floating solar cell platforms in the reservoir. (Photo by Reuters)

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

Reuters reported that some 144,417 units of 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 121 hectares of water area. Authorities are aiming to complete the project in June.

Chief of the hydro-floating solar hybrid project at Sirindhorn Dam, Chanin Saleechan said that the current progress of the project is at 90% completion. The project area is divided into seven platforms of floating solar cell panels.

“Now we’ve installed five-and-a-half platforms. There are still one-and-a-half platforms to work on, which we expect to complete by the end of April. And we think we will be ready to distribute electricity with this by the end of June 2021.”

Since November, EGAT has been putting together floating solar platforms at the Sirindhorn dam, one of the country’s largest hydropower dams, which it says should have the capacity to generate 45 megawatts of power.

Floating solar cell platforms in the reservoir. (Photo by Reuters)

The state-run 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.

An Energy Management System (EMS) will be used to switch between solar and hydropower, depending on which has more strength to generate electricity, a hybrid system project chief Chanin Saleechan said allows continuous power generation.

Still, the director of Bangkok-based non-governmental group Energy and Ecology Network said the floating solar-hydro plan could create an unnecessary and potentially costly capacity excess, although he supports investment in renewable energy.

Thailand has long relied on coal for its power, but plans for new coal-fired projects have been met with opposition over health and environmental risks, including two proposed southern coal plants shelved in 2018. It is aiming to draw 35% of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2037, according to its latest Power Development Plan.

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