Monday, June 13, 2011

Innovative integration

Hydroponics and solar power combine as a food and alternative energy solution.

  • Published: 9/06/2011 at 12:00 AM
  • Newspaper section:Bangkok Post,  Business
  • Kong Janoi
It may not yet be a household name, but Get IT Co, the country's first hydroponic solar farm operator, is confident it can popularise the concept and is targeting a 10% share of the local solar power market in the next two decades.
It takes 19 rai to generate one megawatt of electricity, so producing 1,000MWto fulfil current energy needs will take 19,000 rai, making it impossible to develop solar farms without thinking of food production, according to Mr Polathorn.
In partnership with PTS Progressive Engineering Co, Get IT now runs two hydroponic solar farms in Prachuap Khiri Khan province - one with 25 kilowatts of capacity in Hua Hin district and the other with one-megawatt capacity in Muang district's Bor Nok village.
Hydroponics is the cultivation of plants in nutrient solutions rather than in soil.
All power generated is supplied to the Provincial Authority of Thailand, while the vegetables grown onsite are sold to Bangkok markets.
Get IT is now preparing four more projects in Nong Khai, one in Sakon Nakhon and three in Udon Thani.
The eight new projects, which will generate a combined 8 MW, will all be completed this year.
"Ours is an agriculture-based economy, so any land used for solar farms alone will be at the expense farming. Therefore, we want to produce both electricity and food on the same piece of land," said Polathorn Neamsiri, managing director of PTS.
The company is the strategic partner of Get IT, which was established in 2008 under Board of Investment privileges in return for using the local office as its Asian headquarters.
Get IT's website ( says the company entered into a joint venture with Thai Diamond City in April to build Thailand's largest solar park at 100 MW, to be located in Kaeng Krachan National Park north of Hua Hin town.
"It takes 19 rai to generate 1 MW of electricity, so producing 1,000 MW to fulfil current energy needs will take 19,000 rai, making it impossible to develop solar farms without thinking of food production," said Mr Polathorn.
He said the high temperatures present at a solar farm are conducive to higher fruit and vegetable output.
"Hydroponics can produce higher yields, and output can be harvested more quickly than with normal farming methods, so we can recoup our investment relatively soon," said Mr Polathorn.
He said Get IT has spent 87 million baht over the last six years on hydroponic solar farming.
The eight new solar projects will cost a combined 600 million baht.
Next year, investment is expected to top 2 billion baht, prompting Get IT to embark on an aggressive fund mobilisation drive, said Mr Polathorn.
With production costs for hydroponic solar farms relatively high, the company is considering its own solar cell factory and quartz smelting plant in Thailand to lower the cost of solar panels.
Mr. Polathorn said such a move would cost 6 billion baht.
"We intend to account for 10% of the 54 gigawatts planned under the country's 20-year solar power development plan," he said.
"To achieve this target, we welcome partnerships with all licensed solar power developers along with landowners."
Philip Napier-Moore from Mott MacDonald, a British solar engineering firm, said solar farm development requires being connected to the power grid, as battery chargers are still too expensive and have a short lifetime for storage capacity.

Renewable Energy is Growing in Thailand

Saturday, 04 June 2011 15:08 Banyol Kong Janoi

Photo: Banyol Kong Janoi

Download The Thai government is promising to be the leading nation in South-east Asia when it comes to green energy.
One of the world’s largest solar power plants is being built in Thailand at the moment and should be generating electricity later this year.
Bangkok was the host this week of Clean Power Asia, the largest regional power event which focuses on both renewable and cleaner fossil power.
Energy experts from across the world for there and Banyol Kong Janoi spoke with some of them for Asia Calling.

Investors, engineers, and bankers who are interested in the green technologies development are here at the ‘Clean power Asia’ exhibition.
New green technologies such as biogas treatment plants, solar panels, waste and water treatment plants are on display.
On one stall is Nicole Bihler the marketing manager of Solarzentrum Allgau, a German solar company.
“I think the market here in Thailand is definitely one of the biggest markets in the future as I’ve leant before the second biggest market growing in the world right now. So I see a lot of potential here in Thailand and especially the people, the way to work here is really nice.”
There are many solar companies looking to get access to the Thai market.
The Asia Development Bank has leant up to 70 million dollar to support a local Lopburi solar project in Thailand.  
According to the ADB, this solar project is one of the worlds biggest.
Bihler says the energy of the future must come from renewable sources.
“We should all use what the nature gives us for free, we gonna have the sun forever. I hope so. We gonna have wind forever. Those are resources that we actually use, not going to back to nuclear power which can destroy a country just in seconds.”    
Right now only 12 percent of energy in Thailand comes from renewable energy.
But the government wants to double the amount coming from renewable sources by 2022.
Methar Thongma is a manager of PTT the biggest energy supplier company in Thailand
Speaking at the conference, Mether said this possible if Thailand looks to biogas energy and uses.
Palm oil and rubber industry waste.
Dr Kunn Kangvansaichol is a researcher at PTT.
“From the knowledge, some of applications the renewable technologies can compete with fossil fuel in some area, for example, biomass from existing sugar cane mill or biomass from existing palm oil mill. They can compete because they consider their waste no cost. You can compete it. In Some area, you have to transport natural gas or you have to have infrastructure for transmission line, solar can be competing with the existing technology.”
Francesco Vavarro is a manager from the Steven Leach Group sustainable design company.
He said Southeast Asia countries are still struggling to rely on renewable energy.
“The biggest difficulty we are now facing, doing all of this here in southeast Asia specifically in Thailand, is cost. Still a lot of technologies and material use to build sustainably are new plus there is a lot research and development need to be done which mean there is a lot upfront cost in developing into mature technologies and mature building products. So at this stage we are in, people still try to find out what are the best things to do. And when they find that out, hopefully the cost will go down. Right now, the biggest challenging is to get people to understand the upfront cost that they are paying today, you can gain back overtime in relatively quickly.”
Eva-Maria Schmitt a wind energy consultant in Germany says the cost will go down.
“Now, energy is still cheap. Oil is relatively cheap and nuclear is relatively cheap but 10 years or the later 40 years then all fossil energies are going to be very expensive. And renewable energies are getting cheaper and cheaper. One day, they will be less expensive than fossil energy so the development is going to the direction renewable.”
Francesco says the cost now should be shared.
“Every person should be responsible for the future of our planet.  Sustainability is whether it be in term of resources, renewable energy, or how we live our life, everybody responsibility.  Specific to my company as the people who are creating interior design to build environment is our responsibility to point out and advocate what is the best thing to do in charging our way for better tomorrow.”