Thai village gets power for first time with microgrid

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The remote Thai village of Ban Pha Dan in the mountainous Lamphun province now has access to electricity for the first time with the installation of Redflow ZBM2 zinc-bromine flow batteries.

In a project backed by the Thai Government, the village is using solar cells to harvest energy and a high-performance hybrid battery system, including ZBM2s, to store energy for a village microgrid that is separated from the national electricity distribution network.

Ban Pha Dan, 70km south of the popular northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, is a small village that has lacked access to electricity because it is surrounded by a wildlife reserve where power poles are forbidden. This microgrid project was initiated by Thailand’s Energy Ministry and the Renewable Energy for Sustainable Association with financial support from the Energy Conservation Promotion Fund.

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Thailand’s Energy Minister Dr Siri Jirapongphan with Redflow batteries during his visit to Ban Pha Dan

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 Thailand National Energy Policy Council, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, approved Thailand’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 per cent of total capacity by 2037.

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Redflow managing director and CEO Tim Harris said the Ban Pha Dan deployment provided a compelling model for remote communities in both 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 Ban Pha Dan energy storage system combines 10 Redflow ZBM2 10 kilowatt-hour 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 houses, each of which uses less than one-fortieth of the daily power consumed in an average Australian house. The locally produced energy also enables villagers to power water-supply systems for drinking and agriculture.

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Redflow batteries with Victron inverter-chargers at Ban Pha Dan, Thailand

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.

Mr Harris said the success of the Ban Pha Dan system demonstrated the benefits of solar-powered microgrids with energy storage for remote communities in many Redflow target markets, including 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.

“Redflow believes microgrids present a strong market opportunity for our zinc-bromine flow batteries.”