Huge floating solar farm puts Thailand on track towards carbon neutrality

By: Ben Anthony Horton with AFP

In Thailand’s north-eastern region of Ubon Ratchathani, a shimmering network of solar panels stretches across a large reservoir constantly generating green energy. This is the first of 15 planned floating solar farms that aim to put Thailand on track for carbon neutrality by 2050.

With climate deadlines from COP26 fast approaching, nations are turning to some pretty radical solutions to achieve net zero. This definitely qualifies.

In the daytime, its 145,000 photovoltaics convert sunlight to green energy, and throughout the night, hydropower turbines generate power from the gentle flow of water. This shimmering network is being touted as the ‘world’s largest floating hydro-solar farm’ in existence, and will form the basis of Thailand’s strategy to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

At present, natural gas accounts for nearly two-thirds of all Thailand’s electrical grid, while wind, solar, and hydropower comprise less than 10%. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha wants to drastically alter this balance ‘in any way imaginable’ and plans to construct up to 15 more of these ‘floatovoltaic’ vistas in the coming years. In-fact, tests have shown that fully immersing them in water can lead to an 11% boost in productivity compared to those installed in urban areas.

In terms of the practical drawbacks, maintenance obviously becomes more complicated out on the water.

Locals have also expressed concern, claiming the farm has forced them out of areas traditionally used for livelihood.

“The number of fish I can catch has reduced, so we have less income,” says Thongphon Mobmai, a local fisherman from the region.

“We also have to travel longer routes when we’re out fishing and we can only drive our boats in areas designated by the authorities. These are the problems we have with the solar farm.”

Alongside other world leaders at COP26 in Glasgow, Chan-O-Cha stated his intention to “ramp up measures in tackling climate change in any way imaginable.”

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