Vol. V No. 27 - Saturday July 1, - July 7, 2006
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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


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The benefits of affordable solar energy

The benefits of affordable solar energy

Eitan Frankental
In today’s global world where people are very mobile we have become very dependent on electricity for various applications. One of our biggest natural energy sources, oil, is soon to be used up. This is why we have the duty to find other ways to harness energy. One of the best and most efficient energy sources today is the energy of the sun or solar energy.
Solar Energy is a never-ending energy source which takes the form of radiation, heat and light transfer. Solar energy is considered to be the most pure, clean, pollution free and environmentally friendly energy source today and it is possibly the best solution to any energy problem. The potential of the energy delivered by the sun is practically infinite, at least for the next 4 billion years—as experts predict. The amount of energy that strikes the surface of the earth in one day exceeds daily consumption by 10,000 to 15,000 times. So, the potentials are enormous. Around the world Solar Energy is already being harnessed because it has the potential to provide several times the current country energy consumption if properly exploited.
So why isn’t solar energy more utilized in Thailand, one can ask? Thailand happens to be the second largest energy consumer per capita in Asia, with Indonesia as the leader. One reason is that, as in other countries, too much economic interest lies within the conventional energy industry; another reason is the actual cost of conserving the energy. Today on the market you can find two main applications for harnessing solar energy, solar energy panels for producing electricity and solar panels for producing hot water. Unfortunately the first one is still offered at a rather premium price since these applications are based on semiconductor technologies. When using solar electricity panels the economics mostly lies within areas where there is no mains electricity or constant power cuts. But with the constant price increase fuel oil and thus in electricity, these applications will become a very good investment. The other one, which is far more economic, is based on the heat transferring of liquid, mostly water. Here the return of investment lies within 3-5 years.
Using either one of these systems benefits the environment in many ways. First, it contributes to a safer, cleaner, less polluted atmosphere. Electricity production by conventional generators, fossil fuels and nuclear power has a negative impact on the environment because of the creation and emissions of pollutants. Solar energy also reduces dependency on fuels imported from unstable regions and helps to mitigate climatic change as it does not emit Carbon dioxide (CO2). Solar energy applications also reduce the risk of ecological catastrophes linked to oil transport and it does not produce any radioactive waste as in the case of nuclear energy.
In Chiang Mai, where pollution is a serious problem, these applications can really contribute to a reduction of pollution and at the same time save a lot of money for the user. The local government in Chiang Mai have, in some cases, adapted solar energy, especially when for traffic lighting, but much more can be done. In Mae Hong Son and other places in Northern Thailand, the government has initiated solar energy projects that are still to be evaluated. Some Chiang Mai hotels, resorts and private houses have also utilized solar energy, especially for heating their water. These systems have then managed to cut the electricity cost by 40-50 %. In some countries in Europe, the government has either subsidized solar energy applications, or legislated to encourage it. This has led to a remarkable reduction in the demand for conventional energy.
Since we have more sunny days here in Thailand than in Europe adopting subsidies for systems as in Europe would definitely attract more people to use solar energy and by that, cut down on Thailand’s need for conventional energy.
Eitan Frankental is the Managing Director of Sunpower-asia Co Ltd based in Chiang Mai, with over 60 year experience in the solar energy business. He can be reached at 053-281 353, [email protected]

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