Credit: Greenpeace/ Roengchai Kongmuang

Power Revolution at Rooftops

Residential solar rooftop power generation is being pushed to break the ceiling

Frist was Thung Si Udom Hospital in Ubonratchathani province. Then Phu Sing Hospital in Si Sa Ket and Chum Phae Hospital in Khon Kaen followed. 

The three hospitals are the latest hospitals which had their rooftops intalled with solar panels to generate electricity by their own last week as part of the attempt made by the Thai Solar Fund to boost self-reliant power generation at an individual scale.

“The installation of solar panels on these hospitals’ rooftops are meant to signify self-reliance in power generation among individuals as much as diversification of energy sources to lower risks in times of rising challenge such as climate change,” said Tara Buakhamsri, director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, part of the grouping under the fund.

Cyclists in the Cycling for Solar Hospitals
Credit: Greenpeace/ Roengchai Kongmuang

For nearly a year, the fund has raised donations through various activities in order to get the money to support the project.

Those include the Cycling for Solar Hospitals” campaign, which was kicked off at Warin Chamrab train station in Ubon Ratchathani on October 17, and was scheduled to finish at the Chum Phae Hospital, Khon Kaen, with the group of cyclists joining along the 550 kilometers route.

The Thailand Solar Fund began its crowdfunding campaign with the goal of installing solar rooftop panels in seven hospitals in Thailand by the end of this year. The installed solar energy generation are on-grid systems which require no battery but connect directly to the government’s power grid, allowing the hospitals to save on energy costs around one fifths of their annual eletricity bills, or around Bt 200,000 a year.

Duangporn Asawarachun, Director of Chum Phae Hospital said hopsitals spend millions of baht of their annual budget on electricity bills to maintain health-care and life-saving services. Donations from people around the country for the installation of 30kW Solar PV systems in these hospitals will allow each hospital to save at least Bt 200,000 annually, throughout the lifespan of the solar panels, which can in turn be used to support the life-saving services instead.

Tara said the government is still short of policies to firmly address solar based power generation at a household scale, which the group sees as being highly capable of.

Cyclists in the Cycling for Solar Hospitals
Credit: Greenpeace/ Roengchai Kongmuang

At present, the latest 2018 Power Development Plan has addressed solar energy as the biggest proportion of the potential renewable energy production of the country in the  next 20 years, with up to 10,000 MW set in the plan.

However, as Tara pointed, the plan has given the focus on the “utility scale” which is a large-scale solar based power production by solar farms. Meanwhile, only around 1,000 MW is set to be from households under the People’s Solar Rooftops program, which would span into ten years, with 100 MW of the producion targeted each year.

Such the quota set, Tara pointed, has capped the potential of households’ contribution of power into the system. Adversely, the government at present has not had any appropriate subisidies for high costs of solar panel installation. Nor it has clear policies on the measuring of power generation from the household production.

The group, therefore, also calls for the Net Metering system, under which power generated by solar would be deducted from household uses to create the net sum of power left to be sold into the system with fair calculations and prices.

Saree Aongsomwang, secretary general of the Foundation for Consumers, said Thailand needs this Net Metering measure in order to buy electricity produced from residential solar rooftop systems at a fair price. 

This is necessary to secure the rights of people to access clean renewable energy system and can transform citizens from energy users, who bear the burden of monthly electricity bills, into energy producers who can sell electricity to the grid, she said.