Published on 20/11/2012
Solar power lights up phangnga school Natural energy points to a sustainable future It was a perfect day for students of Yaowawit private boarding school in Phangnga to enjoy their weekend. The weather was not so hot, with showers in the morning before bright sunlight came at noon.
Children at Yaowawit private boarding school in Phangnga inspect the solar modules that will generate 227,400 watts of power per day, more than enough to serve the schoolâ€™s daytime energy needs. Like most parts of southern Thailand, Phangnga has sunshine most of the year except in the monsoon season. This makes the school, which covers 25 hectares, a suitable location for a solar field to lower its energy costs and make it more self-reliant. With official operations of 324 solar modules in place last weekend, Yaowawit is thought to be the first school in Thailand to have its own solar field. Covering an area of 476 square metres with four inverters, the system produces 227,400 watts of power per day, more than enough to serve the school's daytime energy needs.
Opened in 2006 by a German founder for children who lost their parents in the 2004 tsunami, Yaowawit provides shelter to 110 underprivileged students aged 4-18. "The solar panel field will not only give our students the opportunity to learn about how solar energy functions but it will reduce our energy costs for the next 25 years," said headmaster Kunchana Mailaeaid.
Lohoff: Preparing a better environment
The solar installation is the result of a partnership between the German government and German private enterprises. Conergy, a solar solutions and service provider, provided the design, hardware and consultancy. Logwin Logistics provided freight services to transport solar components from Germany to Phangnga, while the German embassy in Bangkok donated 600,000 baht for construction. With a total cost of 3 million baht, the solar field is expected to generate 83,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year. The energy output is not stable over the day, increasing with the intensity of the sun. Maximum output will be reached between 10am and 2pm. The solar power will help lower Yaowawit's energy bill by half or about 20,000 baht per month. With all four inverters running, the system will generate a lot more than the school's needs during peak hours. The management is obtaining a selling licence from the Provincial Electricity Authority to supply the surplus to the power grid to offset energy consumption early and later in the day. Marc Lohoff, a Conergy board member, said the system would serve the intermediate needs of students, while solar power would prepare a better environment for the next generation.
The provider of the photovoltaic solar system is building its fifth and sixth solar parks in Thailand. With total installations of two gigawatts globally, Conergy also provides engineering procurement contract services for solar farms in Thailand. "In today's renewable energy landscape, we talk way to often about return on equity, the affordability of clean energy and subsidy. But we intended to neglect the reason behind the global effort to switch from nuclear or conventional power to renewable," said Mr Lohoff. "We need to protect the world of tomorrow. We can instil the values of sustainability in the next generation." Thailand is among the region's leaders in solar energy production with installed capacity of 286 MW as of last year and a target to reach 350-400 MW in the next few years, said Mr Lohoff, who is in charge of all developing solar markets. The kingdom aims to secure a quarter of its energy from renewable sources by 2021, he said. The solar field at Yaowawit will not only generate clean electricity for the school but will also become a learning centre for students and neighbouring communities to experience and realise the benefits of renewable energy first hand, Mr Lohoff said.