By ITTHI C TAN
THE SUNDAY NATION
THAI renewable company Impact Energy Asia (IEA) plans to build the largest wind farm in Asean - and generate 600 megawatts on 400,000 rai in southern Laos - under an agreement signed by the Lao government and the company on Friday.
“Called Monsoon Wind Farm, the US$1.5 billion [Bt50 billion] farm will be located near the Mekong River across from Ubon Ratchathani,” said Woramol Khamkanist, who heads the firm.
The accord was signed by Laos’ Deputy Minister for Investment and Planning Dr Khamniang Phonsena and IEA director Paradai Suebma. Laos’ Deputy Minister for Energy and Mining Vilaphon Veelawong and Royal Thai Embassy official in Laos Rujikorn Saengchan also attended the signing.
Woramol said: “We are encouraged by the support from the Lao and Thai governments.”
The wind project will be turned over to the Lao government after a 25-year concession.
The wind farm covers two districts: Dak Cheung in Sekong province and Sanxay in Attapeu province. The governor of Attapeu Dr Nam Viyaked also witnessed the signing.
Monsoon Wind is due to deliver its payload in 2019. It will be built on land where 4,000 people live in six scattered villages.
“The wind farm does not encroach on arable land or harm the environment,” an IEA engineer said. “It will not disrupt the lives of people.”
About 95 per cent of the power is expected to be sold to Asean markets, mainly to Thailand and buyers bordering the Mekong. The project is also critical to Thailand’s energy needs.
“In the next 10 years, local production of natural gas and LNG will be depleted and much of our LNG needs will have to be imported to replace local demand,” IEA executive Somboon Lertsuwannaroj said.
The project will also play a key role in the Asean Power Grid Policy to sell power from Laos via Thai and Malaysia grids to Singapore, which has pledged to buy Lao power to assist one of the poorer members in the group.
“It is only prudent that we rely on ourselves and a sister nation such as Laos, with which we share a common language, culture and historical ties,” Somboon said. “After all, Laos, with its Lan Chang [million elephants] culture is truly a twin of our Lan Na [million ricefields] heritage.”
Monsoon Wind is the first energy project in Laos to be granted to a Thai company. Previously, Thai state agencies were involved in all power projects.
IEA will also clear the site where the wind farm will be built of many explosive devices left from the Indochina conflict in the 1960s and ’70s. Laos has one of the highest amounts of unexploded bombs of any country in the world.
The Monsoon Wind farm hopes to generate over 1,500 million units of power annually and avoid an estimated 750,0000 tonnes of carbon emissions that would be generated by a coal plant.
The project is also expected to spur the building of needed infrastructure like roads, bridges, telecommunications and power grids in Laos, including improved roads to Vietnam and Thailand.