Bangkok adding solar to grid

A Suntech Power solar plant just outside the Thailand city is designed to generate 44 megawatts of power, becoming the largest solar farm in Southeast Asia. It is set for completion by late 2011.

Thailand's energy minister ceremonially broke ground Thursday on what will become the largest solar farm in Southeast Asia.

The outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, will be home to a 44-megawatt solar farm to be completed by the end of 2011. The plant dovetails with the country's aim to get 20 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2022.

Suntech Power, which bills itself as the world's largest producer of crystalline silicon solar panels, has signed a deal to provide 34.5-megawatts worth of solar panels for the first phase of the Bangkok solar project.

When complete, the solar farm will be owned and operated by Thai oil company Bangchak Petroleum in conjunction with Solartron.

Solartron is a turnkey solar solutions company that offers design, installation, and maintenance services for solar projects.

The deal affirms a recent United Nations report that sees Asia leading the way in green tech investment. The deal also speaks to the trend of solar companies offering turnkey solar solutions.

The project also illustrates how oil companies are seeking to branch out into renewable energy resources.

Bangchak Petroleum, which is primarily an oil refiner, announced this week it plans to invest about 23 billion baht ($716 million) over the next five years in alternative energy projects as a way of expanding its green tech portfolio.