ERC predicts wind-down in licensing of big solar farms

ERC predicts wind-down in licensing of big solar farms

People queue up to apply for operating licences to develop solar farm projects at the Energy Ministry. The trend in solar is towards small rooftop projects.
People queue up to apply for operating licences to develop solar farm projects at the Energy Ministry. The trend in solar is towards small rooftop projects.

Policymakers are expected to bring the curtain down on granting licences for private solar farm projects this year as the trend of solar power development has shifted from big farms to small household rooftops that require no licensing, says the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

Licensing for private solar farms for a total capacity of 119 megawatts was opened for an application yesterday and is expected to be the last one offered to state agencies and agricultural cooperatives to operate solar farms together with private firms, said Veeraphol Jirapraditkul, commissioner and ERC spokesman.

The ERC said solar power owners or developers with power generating capacity of less than 1MW are not required to have licences, unlike solar farms, which need huge areas of development and deliberate details to license the developments, said Mr Veeraphol.

"Solar power development in Thailand is shifting from solar farms to rooftops, which are suitable for small businesses and households," he said.

Thailand has solar farms generating a total capacity of 3,100MW, while 83MW is generated from solar rooftops.

Applicants for the new round of licensing can submit their solar power development request until June 2. The ERC will screen the applications before a lucky draw process grants the licences on June 26, Mr Veeraphol said.

Private investors, state agencies and agricultural cooperatives that are granted licences will be given deadlines to start commercial operation by the end of 2018, he said.

The feed-in tariff for this round of licensing was set at 4.12 baht per kilowatt-hour (unit).

Thailand set a target to have total solar power-generating capacity of 6,000MW by 2036, well above its current level, Mr Veeraphol said.

This year the ERC is expected to grant solar farm licences with a combined power-generating capacity of 900MW, slightly down from last year's 1,000MW, he said.

Total investment value in the solar farm business this year could reach 43 billion baht, said Mr Veeraphol.

From now on, the ERC expects to grant renewable power project licences to private developers for biomass, biogas and waste-to-power projects.

"We expect biomass from sugar millers will play a significant role in renewable power development over the next several years because most millers have expanded their capacity to make more sugar waste available for their biomass power plants," he said.

For the rest of the year, the ERC is expected to license another 300MW for the development of hybrid renewable power sources for firm power purchasing agreements (PPA). Under a hybrid firm PPA, private power developers are allowed to use more than one type of renewable power to enable them producing more power from wastes and renewable resources, sending power to the grid on a more constant basis.

Capacity to generate 270MW is expected to be licensed to very small power producers, while 8MW would be granted to biogas projects and another 80MW for waste-to-power projects, Mr Veeraphol said.

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