Human activities primarily contribute to climate change by releasing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Rising in carbon dioxide level is causing an increase in the temperature of both the atmosphere and the oceans. This is the massive environmental problem, which could have catastrophic consequences for our planet. With concerns about the rate of energy demand and global warming, the role of renewable or alternative energy is becoming increasingly significant.
Solar energy is the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source available. When solar radiation transmits into the Earth, it disperses to different locations. As located in the equatorial region, Thailand therefore contains abundant solar energy source from sunlight.
The average daily solar exposure of Thailand is around 19-20 MJ/m2 per day. Density of direct radiation in Thailand usually increases from January and reaches the peak in summer before descending to the bottom in December. Regarding the aforementioned facts, Thailand has solar power potential which can be used to generate electricity in certain areas especially in northeastern region and some areas in the central region.
There are two mainstream technologies to harvest energy from solar power. Concentrated solar power (CSP) technology uses thermal energy from sunlight to heat water, that is thereafter converted into electricity by steam turbines. Photovoltaic (PV) technology transforms sunlight to electricity directly via a chemical phenomenon called the photovoltaic effect.
Concentrated solar power
How concentrated solar power works?
- Reflective materials concentrate heat on the solar receiver.
- Concentrated heat from sunlight converts water in boiler to steam.
- Steam turbine produces electricity.
Photovoltaic or solar panels are solar energy collectors that convert light from the sun into electricity based on the behavior of certain semiconductor substances when exposed to sunlight. Once installed, they are cheap to run, quiet and very rugged with a long life.
Photovoltaic or solar panels
How photovoltaic works?
- Sunlight hits the surface of the solar panel.
- A material called a semiconductor in solar cells converts the light into electricity.
Nowadays, solar panels can be used in several forms. Stand-alone solar panels vary widely in size and application from calculators, solar-powered street lights to rooftops or even the spacecraft. Solar panels can be wired in series to form power arrays or solar farm mounted on the ground, rooftops, and on the water surface to generate electricity in industrial scale.
Floating solar farms on water surface are eco-friendly and space efficient. Large scale floating solar farms are widely constructed in China, India and UK. Space-challenged Japan has already built several floating solar farms in the wake of nuclear disaster in 2011 and begins to work on the world’s largest floating solar farm on the Yamakura Dam reservoir covering an area of 180,000 square meters, and will generate an estimated 13.7 MW of electricity annually.
Did you know?
Floating solar arrays are photovoltaic system that float on the surface of water e.g. reservoirs, lakes or industrial lagoons. By shading water, floating solar farms can reduce water evaporation and retain the volume of water bodies. The system is said to have advantages over solar arrays mounted on land because water helps cooling the panels.
The amount of solar energy reaching Earth’s surface is vast, so this resource has perhaps the greatest potential. According to Alternative Energy Development Plan by Ministry of Energy, Thailand aims to increase its solar capacity to 6,000 MW by 2036. This figure would account for 9 percent of total electricity generation, and be able to meet the electricity needs of up to 3 million households.
Solar power has undergone an annual average percentage drop in cost of production. Given its increasing affordability, the applications and use cases of renewable energy have broadened. China has also already surpassed its 2020 solar panel target. Meanwhile, South Korea plans to add 30.8 gigawatts of solar power to its generation portfolio. Solar energy is a global phenomenon on the upswing. For the foreseeable future, its growth is set to accelerate.