A local health promotion network has urged the government to impose tight controls on the growing number of biomass power projects.
Many of these projects have reduced their generating capacity to avoid being forced to conduct environmental impact studies, it said.
Northeastern Thailand Development Foundation (Net) manager Wichitra Chusakul yesterday said the power projects have tried to bring down their power generating capacities to no more than 9.9 megawatts (MW).
If these projects' production capacities reach 10MW, then they are required by law to undergo environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies.
"The problem is that there is not only one such power project in each community, but several," Ms Wichitra said.
In Roi Et province, residents in a tambon have been suffering respiratory problems caused by three biomass power projects, she said.
Raw materials for biomass power projects include wood chips, sugar cane, rice-husk ash, farm waste and even pig excrement.Ms Wichitra pointed to a case in Surin province where a study found that raw material found in the province can produce only 100MW. But there are more than 10 small biomass power plants with total production capacity of 120MW seeking power plant licences.
National Health Commission member Narongsakdi Aungkasuvapala said the country produces 49 billion tonnes of waste from crops a year, which could be turned into a potential power supply of 3,000MW or half of the amount consumed in the country each year.
"We can't deny that the biomass power plant is the country's important alternative source of power. But the problem is that we don't have enough clean technology for them," he said.
In Thailand, there are only two power plants that use complete combustion technology, compared with a total of 84 plants nationwide, he said.
The government has set a goal for alternative energy production of 25% of total power capacity.
Currently, there are only 84 biomass power plants with a combined capacity of 1,397 MW, or only 9.7% of total power production.
However, 309 micro and small biomass power plants with 2,900MW are in the process of having their licences approved. Worse than that, 205 of them have less than 9MW to 9.9MW of capacity.
Dr Narongsakdi said that medical records from one community that is suffering from particles from a biomass power plant have shown that 34% of the residents are ill with respiratory problems, which is a significant warning sign for policy makers.
It has been estimated that 1KW of power from a biomass power plant generates 30mg to 80mg of particles.
Fine particulate dust matter with a size of less than 10 microns has been found to lead to respiratory diseases and lung cancer.
About the author
- Writer: Apinya Wipatayotin