Solar startup estimates capacity to treble this year in Thailand

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Rooftop solar system. Author: Centre for Alternative Technology. License: Creative Commons. Attribution 2.0 Generic

Solar startup estimates capacity to treble this year in Thailand

Growing demand for solar energy from households and businesses as a result of new lifestyles transformed by the pandemic is expected to help energy startup Ion Energy Co expand its rooftop solar panel installation capacity from 5 to 15 megawatts this year.

Covid-19 has caused more people to work remotely from home, despite the government relaxing lockdown measures and reopening the country since late last year, said Peerakarn Manakit, chief operating officer of Ion Energy.

“Our estimate of triple growth is based on the skills of our staff and the trend of choosing homes with lower electricity bills,” he said.

Ion Energy expects its installation capacity to reach 150MW within five years under its planned capital spending of 625 million baht.

The company provides rooftop solar panel installation for homeowners and business operators in both megawatt and kilowatt scales.

For the megawatt scale, the service is based on private power purchase agreements (private PPAs), under which Ion Energy installs a solar system for free and charges no maintenance costs, but property owners are required to pay electricity bills, with discounts of 20-50% on the electricity tariff, to the company for a period of 15 years.

When the private PPA ends, the solar panels, which are designed to be used for 25 years, are transferred to the property owners, who can continue to produce and use electricity at no charge.

Target groups for the private PPAs are small and medium-sized enterprises.

Ion Energy expects the rooftop solar panel market using private PPAs to grow by 30% a year, up from 670MW in 2020 to 9,000MW in 2030.

With the kilowatt scale, homeowners pay for the solar panel installation but fully own the system, so there is no need for them to pay electricity bills.

The company is also using a pricing strategy to attract more prospective buyers with a limited budget.

Many buyers are looking for second-hand 3KW solar panels priced at less than 100,000 baht, said Mr Peerakarn.

He said this was the motivation behind charging this group a slightly higher price for new hardware.

The firm is selling 3KW rooftop solar panels for around 150,000 baht, said Mr Peerakarn, cheaper than the price offered by some large energy firms.