PM Vol 17 No 103 Editor’s Note
The Future of Solar Energy
Energy is the most important factor for all sectors and continues to increase in demand every year. According to the BP World Energy report in 2014, Thailand’s energy consumption ranked seventh in Asia. In contrast, energy production in Thailand decreased in 2015 leading to more imports to meet domestic demand. Additionally, jet fuel consumption increased due to Thailand’s growing tourism and longer periods of hot weather increasing electricity consumption along with the business sector increasing electricity consumption in 2015.
Commercial primary energy production was at the equivalent of 1,026 thousand barrels of oil per day representing a reduction of 4.3% from the previous year. Production of lignite decreased due to the reduction in demand from the Mae Moh power plant and the industrial sector. Hydroelectric power generation also decreased due to lower water reserves and lower rain fall. These factors increased the need to import energy to the value of 913 billion baht. It is important for Thailand to consider adopting alternative sources of energy and solar energy is one of the prominent choices.
Surprisingly, Thailand ranks an impressive fifth in Asia following China, Japan, India and Korea in terms of solar energy production. Solar photovoltaics (PV) manufacturing is a key component in producing electricity from solar cells and is now in fierce competition. Unfortunately, Thailand has no competitive advantage in PV production due to capital-intensive solar-grade silicon and solar silicon wafers.
The ministry’s Department of Primary Industries and Mines revealed that Thailand has 25 million tonnes of high quality quartz in reserve. It is a major raw material for manufacturing solar-cell-grade silicon. With this quantity, around six million tonnes of silicon can be produced which could generate one million megawatts of electricity accounting for 24 times of peak power demand in Thailand this year. The department’s deputy director Somboon Yindeeyoungyuen said that the mineral could create approximately 3.6 trillion baht of revenue for Thailand and would also bring down the cost of environmentally friendly solar power.
This discovery could be the game changer to assist Thailand in becoming the largest hub of silicon and solar panels in Asean. The department is now considering a development program to maximize benefits for the solar photovoltaics manufacturing industry to grow rapidly and become a large revenue source for the country. It will also encourage investment and development from high-value industries which require advanced technologies. Thailand will also gain investment interest from abroad with higher levels of energy supply available. However, analysis and due diligence will need to be undertaken before moving forward. Solar power is something for us to watch closely with interest as it continues to develop in Thailand.