Thailand Powering Through the Sustainability Ceiling

The world’s largest solar rooftop and other record-setting green initiatives are reinforcing the Southeast Asian kingdom’s reputation as the region’s clean energy powerhouse.

Kansai Electric Power, Japan’s second largest electricity supplier, is creating the world’s biggest stand-alone rooftop solar panel installation atop a factory that manufactures high-performance Falken tires for the European market.

Together with a gas co-generation system and additional electric power fueled by biomass from surplus rubber trees, the 40,000-panel, 100,000 square meter rooftop will have in 2025 a total output of 22MW, reduce Co2 emissions by 38,000 tonnes and ultimately enable the factory’s owner, Sumitomo Rubber Industries, to function entirely on renewable energy.

For the companies involved and independent experts alike, the rooftop within the Amata City Rayong industrial park, 135 kilometers southwest of Bangkok, is further evidence that Thailand is a clean energy frontrunner among the 10 countries that comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“In terms of the promotional force of the country, we think Thailand is the most advanced in the ASEAN region,” Katsuhisa Yamamoto, managing director of Kansai’s Thai unit, says.

As part of a sweeping national sustainability strategy known as the Bio-Circular Green economy, the Thai government has successfully packaged a raft of subsidies, tax breaks, and other incentives to lure investors to finance and build renewable energy-related projects. “It’s very important for our business, especially in tax benefit,” Yamamoto says of the government’s support.

Other companies seeking clean energy opportunities in Thailand span the investment spectrum including Japanese and Korean power utilities to Chinese and European electric vehicle (EV) makers and U.S. technology giants such as Amazon Web Services and Western Digital Corp.

In perhaps the most noticeable example of the clean energy revolution taking place in Thailand, the country that has long been one of the world’s leading manufacturers of cars and trucks powered by internal combustion engines has also become both the regional hub for electric vehicle production and its fastest-growing market.

That’s as a result of major investments by EV manufacturers such as BYD Co., Great Wall Motor and SAIC of China, Mercedes Benz of Germany, and newcomer Foxconn Technology Group of Taiwan, better known as the world’s largest contract maker of electronics, including Apple iPhones.