Solar storage powers microgrid in remote Thai village
A remote village in the mountainous northern region of Thailand now has a reliable power supply thanks to a solar-powered microgrid, allowing the village to generate and use energy independently from the national electricity distribution network.
Ban Pha Dan, 70 km south of the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, is a small village in Lamphun province that has lacked access to electricity due to the surrounding wildlife reserve where power poles are forbidden. In a project backed by the Thai Government, the village is using solar cells to harvest energy, which is then stored using a high-performance hybrid battery system. A cornerstone of the system is the ZBM2 zinc-bromine flow batteries, manufactured by Australian company Redflow, which allow solar energy to be stored to power the village microgrid.
The Ban Pha Dan energy storage system combines 10 Redflow ZBM2 10 kWh zinc-bromine flow batteries with three lithium batteries. Redflow’s long-term partner in Thailand, TSUS Group, installed the ZBM2 batteries to store solar-generated energy that powers the community school, town hall and temple, while the lithium batteries supply energy for individual households, each of which uses less than one-fortieth of the daily power consumed in an average Australian home. The locally produced energy also enables villagers to power water-supply systems for drinking and agriculture.
The project was initiated by Thailand’s energy ministry and the Renewable Energy for Sustainable Association, with financial support from the Energy Conservation Promotion Fund. Thailand’s Energy Minister Dr Siri Jirapongphan visited Ban Pha Dan to inspect the new microgrid and energy storage system in mid-January. Later that month, the Thai National Energy Policy Council, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, approved the country’s Power Development Plan, which prioritises the development of renewable energy sources for the period 2018–2037. Dr Jirapongphan said that non-fossil energy would account for 35% of total capacity by 2037.
Redflow Managing Director and CEO Tim Harris said the Ban Pha Dan initiative provided a compelling model for remote communities in developing and developed countries. “This solar-powered microgrid with energy storage shows how to provide environmentally friendly energy for remote communities,” he said. “Without the cost and pollution of diesel generators, this system gives local people access to energy for lighting, refrigeration and water pumps, which significantly improves their quality of life.”
The energy storage system is installed in a small concrete building next to the town hall. Three large lithium batteries are installed in an air-conditioned room to ensure they operate at a safe temperature while, in an adjacent room, the Redflow batteries work safely without the need for air conditioning.
Harris said the success of the Ban Pha Dan system demonstrated the benefits of solar-powered microgrids with energy storage for remote communities, including those in the Asia–Pacific region, southern Africa and even remote mining communities in Australia. “Just like mobile telephony leapfrogged fixed-line telecommunications in developing countries, microgrids can deliver the benefits of modern technology without the massive infrastructure spend required by grid-based energy utilities,” he said.
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