19
Feb

Power of the Sun

Wandee Khunchornyakong built the first solar farm in Thailand eight years ago. Her company is now the largest solar power supplier in the region. See the original post here from the Bangkok Post

EARLY BIRD

Wandee Khunchornyakong always wakes up at around 5 am. As chairperson and CEO of Solar Power Company Group (SPCG), she likes to start her day when the sun rises.

Her working day ends late. She goes to bed at midnight. Hard work is her routine, which she has kept from a young age. She turns 60 this year, but retirement is not part of the plan.

Wandee built her first – and Thailand’s first – solar farm in 2010. Since then her company has grown in leaps and bounds. SPCG now has 43 subsidiaries. From its headquarters in Thong Lor, it manages 36 solar farms and has expanded the business to Japan and other ASEAN countries. Today SPCG is the largest solar-power-generating company in Southeast Asia.

As a working woman – one of only a handful in the energy industry – she never thought that her dream of generating clean energy would become the huge business it is now.

“I am not somebody who comes from a family with a big name. When I returned to work after early retirement, I chose a business that was innovative and of the kind that nobody had done before,” she said, recalling her original decision to set up the company in 2009.

Wandee had worked as an executive at several companies in different fields, including a solar-cell company. She stepped down in 2006, at the age of 48, to pursue a PhD in Educational Leadership at Suan Dusit University. She thought she would become a teacher in her senior years. But destiny had other plans.

power of the sun_wandee

VISIONARY MIND

Back in 2008, the government announced a policy to promote renewable energy development. It offered a 25-year licence for private companies to operate solar-power plants and feed electricity to the utility grid of the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA).

At that time, the solar-farm business was in its infancy and wasn’t a priority for financial creditors. For almost a year after the policy was announced, no company applied for a license.

When Wandee learned about the government’s initiative from Dr Piyasawat Amaranand, the former Energy Minister of Surayud Chulanont’s government, it motivated her to research the solar-power-plant business.

“I was interested in solar power because it’s a global trend. I know green technology will be the future for Thailand,” she said.

She spent months studying the business possibilities until she was certain she would have a chance at success. Thailand has strong solar-radiation levels throughout the year when compared to other countries in the region, and even developed countries where solar farms have been implemented, such as Germany and Japan.

“With the same investment for setting up a solar-power plant, a solar farm in Thailand will have more energy output, perhaps double to triple that of developed countries. I knew the possibility of success was high and the risk for failure was very low,” she said.

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