Solar power lights up distant isles
KMUTT offers equipment and training
Solar power has been revived for people living in Thailand's faraway islands as they have been provided with new solar panels, solar-powered water pumps and maintenance training.
Krabi province's Koh Hung and Phang Nga province's Koh Mak Noi were two of many islands in the southern part of Thailand that still did not have an electricity system. Mostly local people were relying on diesel electric generators.
Many years ago, people on both islands were given solar home systems - solar panels that generated enough power to turn on lights or a small television set. However, at least half of these solar panels were damaged and could not be fixed due to lack of maintenance knowledge and tools.
King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) recently offered help to people in Koh Hung by providing a flexible hybrid solar panel that could be easily moved for use in different places. It can generate power from sunlight - five kilowatts of power - enough for 24 hours for a house using electric appliances such as lights, TV, refrigerator or a washing machine.
Its system was designed to save power from the diesel generator so people could still access and use electricity on clouded days.
Usa Boonbumroong, KMUTT's researcher, said the project workers would not merely give people a solar panel and then depart. They would also restore their trust in solar power after their home systems had been put of action for years without any maintenance advice provided.
Local people have been trained in basic techniques on how to maintain a solar home system so they can figure out how to fix it by themselves.
Adul Klongruaw, who lives in Koh Hung, said nobody had taught him and his neighbours how to fix the solar home system, so it was left broken and people turned to using a diesel generator, which required oil.
He said that most people in Koh Hung did not have a diesel generator and had no choice but to use candles at night. The project included a science camp for students at Baan Koh Hung School to learn about the benefits of solar power and renewable energy. They were taught to create simple solar cooking stoves and a sundial. They also learned to adjust the solar panel to the correct direction to get more power.
It was a great opportunity for the students to learn about solar power and inspire them to love science. Maintenance training will also benefit people, as they can examine and repair their solar panels by themselves, said Luck Nagpun, the acting director of Baan Koh Hung School .
The Koh Mak Noi neighbourhood is supported by a solar-powered water pump that maximised capacity to provide fresh water to 180 households on the island. The water is pumped from groundwater and a lake and stored in a tank on a higher area before distribution around the island. It can save about Bt500 a month in diesel costs. However, villagers still need a diesel water pump in case there is not enough sunlight to fuel the engine on cloudy days.
Combining the diesel water pump with a solar-powered system, they can generate more than 180 cubic metres for residents of Koh Mak Noi.
Abdullah Sinto oversees the water pump on the island. He said the diesel water pump provided only for houses in the lower area, so about 80 households were being left dry.
However, now everyone can access fresh water, which is better for the environment as people depend less on diesel generators, he said.
Science camps are being held for students to learn maintenance knowledge, which benefits the people in Koh Mak Noi community as well.
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