The Thai government has opened its doors to prospective solar project developers, who have registered their interest in building the first and largest portion of 800MW of PV projects in the country through an auction process.

The government's Energy Regulatory Commission posted photographs on its official Facebook page of the event on Sunday. The initial winners of the tender process will deploy 600MW of PV in Thailand in the first ‘wave’, with another 200MW expected to be awarded later.

Following the registration of interest, the winners of the 600MW of projects will be announced on 24 December of this year, a government spokesman was reported by Reuters news agency as having said on Monday. The government expects around THB36 billion (US$1.01 billion) to be invested in the projects next year, according to Reuters.

The Thai national Energy Regulatory Commission’s spokesman, Viraphol Jirapraditkul, announced to assembled reporters that around 1,200 applicants are expected to apply for this first tranche of projects. Jirapraditkul confirmed that a mixture of private applicants and public agencies are likely to be involved.

The official also named a number of the companies that had applied, Reuters said. One company, Thai Solar Energy, intends to partner with cooperatives and state agencies for 49MW of projects, while another, Inter Far East Energy Corp, plans a partnership on 11MW of projects with the Thai navy.

Meanwhile, PV Tech China reported of a growing interest in Thailand from Chinese companies, including inverter maker Sungrow, which has just held a summit on the future of the Thai solar industry. PV Tech’s Chinese counterpart said that according to speakers at the summit, the first 600MW of tendered projects will be spread across the country as follows: 5MW in the north, 138MW in the central area, 159MW in the west, 200MW in the south, 87MW in the east and 11MW in all other areas. Project developers awarded their contracts in December will have until September next year to have their power plants constructed and connected.

According to PVTC reporter Carrie Xiao, the feed-in tariff (FiT) is also expected to change in response to the tenders. A 5.66 Thai Baht FiT rate is expected for the first 600MW, although the exact policies are still to be confirmed.

Currently, the FiT policies in Thailand are drawn according to the size of the PV projects: for 0-10kW residential rooftop and business-installed projects, the FiT rate is 6.96 Thai Baht (0.22USD) per kW; for 10-450kW projects, the rate is 6.555 Thai Baht (0.21USD) per kW; for 450kW-1MW projects, the rate is 6.16 Thai Baht (0.20USD) per kW; for ground mounting projects over 1MW, the rate is 5.66 Thai Baht (0.168USD) per kW.

In addition to Chinese big hitters like Sungrow, JA Solar, Canadian Solar and Jinko, companies from elsewhere have also shown an interest in the Thai market, including European inverter maker SMA, which said it has now shipped over 1GW to Thailand and Conergy, which is developing three PV plants in the country. Another inverter maker, KACO, said in June that it would use Thailand as its base of operations in the APAC region.

The mass rollout of solar in Thailand has been a stuttering one to date, but dramatic nonetheless and has included summit talks held in 2014 in the wake of civil unrest and rioting, during which energy policy and the role of solar was held up as an important possible investment and development path to help the government keep order.

Now, PV Tech China’s Xiao said, government support for solar is “clear” and subsidy levels moderate, creating a favourable climate for international companies to enter.

PV Tech's publisher, Solar Media, will host the Solar & Off-grid Renewables Southeast Asia this month, 25-26 November at IMPACT, Bangkok.

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