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Thai Turbines Power a Country that Isn’t Windy

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By Robert van Waarden

Part 10 in a series

“I know that 70 percent of the area in the world has a low wind speed. I thought, if we want to promote the wind machine, 70 percent is a lot of the world," says Dr. Wirachai Roynarin (or Dr. Roy as he is more commonly known).

Dr. Roy is a Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at RMUTT in Bangkok and owner of Prapai Technologies, a company that specializes in low wind-speed turbines. He grew up in a small farming family, where he learned to respect the land, before going to England to study. He returned to Thailand believing he could help his country, and he set his sights on the wind. 

He is excited about the prospects for wind energy in Thailand, but insists that it must be done correctly. A few years ago, during the fuel crisis in Thailand, wind energy suddenly became popular. Companies began importing and installing wind turbines that were largely not suitable for the low wind speeds of Thailand.

“When they bring windmills from abroad, they look like a monument, they don’t rotate. Until a storm comes, then they rotate. They are not designed for most of our region,” Dr. Roy says.

In his view, a solution lies in low speed, decentralized wind turbines. These are turbines that can be put anywhere and are small, light structures, like ants feeding the grid. The first major project of Prapai is the King’s Wind Farm, a 200kw wind park made up of 20 individual 10kw wind turbines. The park is about 100m square and located in the village where the King of Thailand spends his summers. 

The King himself supported the construction and the electricity is directed to the community and the grid. It has been deemed a success, although not without difficulties. Dr. Roy and his team have had to grapple with earthquakes and monsoon gusts. When I visited the site, workers were busy in the 42-degree heat repairing three turbines that were damaged from a recent monsoon.

WIND ENERGY SERIES

Part 1: Roman Jurgi, in the Czech Republic.

Part 2: Piet Willem Chevalier in Mali.

Part 3: Amrit Singh Thapa  in Kathmandu.

Part 4: The De Clerck family Netherlands. 

Part 5: Petr Pavek in the Czech Republic. 

Part 6: Pat Blount in Ireland.

Part 7: Nick Suppipat in Thailand.

Part 8: Aruna Awale in Nepal.

Part 9: Jaap van der Beek in North Holland.

Part 10: Dr. Wirachai Roynarin in Thailand.

The wind farm was developed on a previously dry, deserted field, and for Dr. Roy this is very important.

“The most important thing we have is the forest. We need to protect the forest,” he says. “Why do you have to destroy the forest and the fresh water to put the wind machine on a mountain? You can put a 10kw wind machine anywhere in Thailand. You don’t have to cut trees; you can put them wherever you want. You can put them in front of your home, in front of your office. It isn’t tall, it is 18m, it is nice, it is lovely, you can decorate it, and you get energy.”

Dr. Roy is quick to counter any suggestion that his motives are strictly for business. He suggests that he wouldn’t mind if people decided to order alternative products. All he cares about, he says, is that people make sure that the product they use is suitable for the wind speeds and country of Thailand. 

“My wind machines may not be the most perfect machine in the world”, says Dr. Roy. “But I know that they are good machines, because they are not made for business, they are made from the heart.”

Led by Dr. Roy, low wind-speed development could take off. But will Thailand recognize the benefits of the only wind turbines made in Thailand for Thailand?

This is the 10th and final part of a series of wind energy stories from photographer Robert van Waarden

Comments

By M. Straub
on July 13th, 2012

I give Dr. Roy a ton of credit.  Renewable energy should be about making the most of what is around you.  I’m impressed he’s even thinking of low speed wind as a potential energy source.  If more people would embrace their locally available ‘resources’ and view them as true energy sources, then our worldwide addiction to fossil fuels could become a thing of the past.

Hopefully Thailand, and the rest of the region is embracing other energy in the same way.  Take Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) for example, it creates an endless flow of power from the temperature difference in shallow and deep water.  It’s been proven for decades, is zero emissions, and every OTEC system can power a desalination plant to provide millions of gallons of clean drinking water.  OTEC is another example of utilizing our natural world in a clean and safe way to provide energy, and not drilling, digging, or fracking the world apart searching for stuff to burn.

Ideas like Dr. Roy’s and OTEC are the kinds of things future generations will look back and thank us for.  To see more about how OTEC works visit The ON Project.

http://www.theonproject.org/otec/?utm_source=climatecentral&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=mscomment

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By Dhanush Dhari Misra (Bhubaneshwar 751024 (Orissa))
on July 30th, 2012

I am glad to learn about the low wind speed turbines for Thailand. It is rightly said that 70 % of the earth has low wind speed and so such turbines are essential. Can I get more technical and cost details about the low speed wind turbines?

Reply to this comment

By Herbert Wetzel (Germany)
on March 2nd, 2013

Hello Team,
I am planning a concept of Green Island for the Philippines Islands.
It will start on on small Island to proofe if the concept works.
The base is Stirling technology for the water and consistent water supply but I also want to integrate Wind energy.
As you know are the Philippines a poor wind country max 8 kts normal 6 kts.
Do you have any solution and price for this conditions?
I am looking forward to hear from you
regards
Herbert Wetzel

Reply to this comment

By Dr.Roy (Thanyaburi,Thailand)
on March 9th, 2013

Million of thanks for the good support from many and many, The machine was designed for low wind speed region of avergae 4 m/s..Its cut in 2.5 at rated power only 9 m/s for 5 kw wind machine. Recently we have 10 kw model rated at 8.5 m/s. This is located at Lamchabang Port of Thailand for 84 units. Interesting could go to my face book and see some Photos..The Low speed wind machine that I designed cost about the same other wind machine at the same rated power.Its just make from specail airfoil designed and good PMG. Thanks all.
Dr.Roy

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