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Thailand adding 1,000MW of solar with feed-in tariffs

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While municipal utilities in Los Angeles and on New York’s Long Island plod along with timid municipal feed-in tariff programs, Thailand plans to add 1,000 MW of solar photovoltaics (solar PV) by the end of 2014.

Since Thailand launched its aggressive feed-in tariff program in 2006, the country has installed nearly 1,000 MW of renewables and has a portfolio of signed contracts of more than 4,000 MW, nearly half of that for solar PV. There is currently 400 MW of PV installed in Thailand.

As in successful program elsewhere, the Thai feed-in tariffs were differentiated by technology. There are tariffs for wind, solar, hydro, biomass, and biogas. However, contracts were for a limited time period of 10 years or less.

Now in a radical departure from the past program, Thailand’s National Energy Policy Commission (NEPC) has approved new feed-in tariffs for both rooftop and ground-mounted solar PV with contract terms of 25 years. This brings the Thai program into alignment with similar programs in Germany, Great Britain, and Ontario, Canada.

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According to a release by Thailand’s Energy Research Institute, the new feed-in tariffs for solar PV will be differentiated by size and application. There will be three size tranches for rooftop solar PV, and a separate tranche for community-owned, ground-mounted installations.

In a new twist, the tariffs for the community-owned projects will vary by time period. There is one tariff for years 1 to 3, another for years 4 to 10, and a third for years 11 through 25.

And NEPC doesn’t want to wait for results. NEPC has set aside 200 MW for rooftop solar PV, but it must be installed by the end of the year. 100 MW is set aside for systems less than 10 kW in size, and another 100 MW is set aside for systems from 10 kW to 1 MW.

The remaining 800 MW is reserved for community-owned projects and must be installed by year end 2014.

According to the Energy Research Institute, the additional 1,000 MW raises Thailand’s total target for solar PV to 3,000 MW.

For comparison, there were a total of 2,600 MW of solar PV installed in California by the end of 2012.

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