Green Earth Power to develop Myanmar's first solar plant

Economy May 04, 2013 00:00

By Kwanchai Rungfapaisarn
The Na

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210MW to come onstream in less than two years


Myanmar will host the world’s third-largest solar power plant within 21 months, providing the country with an extra 210 megawatts of electricity to satisfy industrial needs.
Green Earth Power (Thailand), the developer of the power plant, on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding with Myanmar’s Ministry of Electric Power for the country’s first solar power plant. Total project value is US$275 million (Bt8.15 billion).
Paul Bernard Yang, president and chairman of GEP, said the company would sign the power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Ministry of Electric Power within the next 90 days. 
The solar plant is scheduled to be completed within 18 months after the PPA is signed and would have the capacity of 210MW to produce up to 350 million kilowatt-hours.
The plant will support the target set by the Myanmar government to increase electricity production from 2,500MW currently to 30,000MW by 2030, said Deputy Minister for Electric Power Aung Than Oo.
He said present power production was not enough to support industrialisation in Myanmar and solar energy would be the first supplemental source of electricity. Currently, 70 per cent of electricity in Myanmar is from hydropower, 20 per cent from gas turbines, and 10 per cent from coal power plants.
Myanmar’s first solar power plant will be on a 300-hectare (1,875 rai) land plot in Minbu, Magway region, neighbouring Nay Pyi Taw, the capital.
Currently, only 26 per cent of the country has access to electricity. Only 4 per cent of rural areas have access to power. Only 3,000 of the country’s 68,000 villages have light, according to The Myanmar Times.
Yang said the MoU had been approved by the Myanmar parliament. Construction of the solar power plant was approved directly by the minister of the president’s office, enabling the PPA process to begin immediately. 
The power from this solar farm will be connected to the country’s new 230-kilovolt power grid, which is overseen by the Ministry of Energy.
“We are also in negotiations for a second MoU, [for a plant that] could be in Mandalay or Yangon, and to have capacity of more than 200MW. The second MoU with the Ministry of Electric Power is expected to be finalised this year,” Yang said.
He said that in Thailand, it would be impossible for any company to start investment on such a large scale. New investors need to pay a lot of money for PPAs and land. 
“Although Myanmar is not as safe as Thailand, it is safe enough for investment.” 
He said the company had been talking with several potential partners in Bangkok about joint-venture possibilities for the project in Myanmar. About 70 per cent of the funding for the project would be from bank loans, and the rest from equity. 
Yang said the advantage of investing in solar plants was low maintenance costs. The energy source is the sun, so there is no the hassle of sourcing raw materials and fuels.
Supasit Skontanarat, GEP managing director, said the sharing of return on investment between the company and the Ministry of Electric Power was still under review by the minister of the president’s office, and would not be revealed until the official PPA is finalised.
Founded in 2010, GEP is set to manage business projects and development of technologies to generate electricity from solar power. The company, of which 80 per cent is owned by a holding company in Hong Kong, also aims to provide appropriate technologies and funding sources, including the contractor, in the design and installation of renewable energy with the mission to create clean energy to meet the increasing demand for power both domestically and in member countries of the Asean Economic Community.