Asia at the Edge of a Solar Tomorrow

April 28, 2016 | ProgressTH Prakruwimolpanyakhun (Monk-Teacher Wimolpanyakhun) also known as “the Solar Monk,” heads the Sisaengtham School (Facebook here) in northeast Thailand. The school not only is solar powered, it also includes alternative energy design, installation, and maintenance in school curriculum. The school also has its own organic gardens which students learn to tend and feed themselves with.

Beyond promoting technological progress, academic improvement, and spiritual enlightenment for his students, the Solar Monk also has worked tirelessly to promote these ideas nationwide.

In a recent trip to Australia to visit Buddhist practitioners within Thailand’s Buddhist networks, the Solar Monk took some time to investigate solar power in Australia and see what lessons he could bring back with him to help Thailand.

In particular, he was interested in learning more about Tesla’s Powerwall. The Powerwall and many other systems he saw in Australia are about a third cheaper than a comparable 3kW system you could build in Thailand, and batteries last 10 years versus 5 years as is common with Thai systems. The Solar Monk also found that in addition to the systems being cheaper and of better quality, the government also helped promote solar power by subsidizing half the cost of installation, and buying power back from solar powered homes attached to the national grid for competitive prices. This explains why everywhere he traveled in Australia, he could see solar power being used.

Prakruwimolpanyakhun may have been slightly disheartened to see the ideal policies encouraging the adoption of solar power in Australia absent across much of Southeast Asia, but he was also encouraged to see just how well solar energy can work and how quickly it can spread under ideal conditions.

Policy will inevitably catch up across the rest of Asia, mainly because of the work of people like Prakruwimolpanyakhun, his network, and networks like his, who are raising awareness, sharpening the technical skills of local communities, and proving that even in less than ideal conditions, solar power can still work, even flourish.

Tesla’s Powerwall, and other innovations like it sure to follow (produced abroad and locally), are knocking at the door of sun-soaked Southeast Asia. All nations like Thailand need to do is let them in.

In the meantime, Prakruwimolpanyakhun and his network plan on continuing with their work, which includes a mid-May trip halfway across the country to the southern island of Phuket to install some 20 donated solar power systems for a tribal village providing each home with at least two lights and an electric fan.

Thailand may have to wait a bit for regulations to catch up with technology, but because of dedicated networks already working on building and improving solar infrastructure across the country, when Thailand is ready, it will have a wealth of experience and both systems and trained people already in place to fully benefit from it.

Follow on Facebook here or on Twitter here.