Koh Jik is a peaceful fisherman’s village located off the east coast of Thailand. A short 40-minute boat ride takes visitors to the island, home to 400 inhabitants known for their strong community spirit. Rarely visited by tourists, the island offers a scene and experience unlike any other. The island has no connection to Thailand’s main grid, -- a truly off-grid community -- but is electrified by their own micro-grid powered by renewable energy.
The community has been fully reliant on their micro-grid system to provide electricity access for the past 14 years. The system is getting old and critical system components, such as the batteries, are coming to their end of life. Without action, the community is gradually losing reliable 24/7 access to electricity and is increasing the use of unsustainable diesel to meet their daily energy needs.
The ReCharge project aims to restore and improve the system on Koh Jik by replacing existing failing lead acid batteries with lithium-ion packs, implementing an automatic control system and network connected digital meters. In addition to providing clean, renewable and reliable energy to the community and working towards UN sustainable development goals 7, 9 and 13, the project also aims to showcase a new generation of micro-grid using lithium-ion batteries, solar PV and diesel with high renewable energy share. Moreover, it will demonstrate that energy access enabled by micro-grids can be self-sustained after grant or private financing is repaid through development of tailor-made tariff structure for low income island communities. ReCharge is a 15 month project starting from June 2018.
The project is implemented by 2nd year students as part of the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) master’s programme. The total project cost is 195 000 USD to be covered through grant funding for the smart-meter component (Australian Aid) and by private financing from Thai developers for the generation portion (Blue Solar and Symbior).
Koh Jik once used to be a lively trading hub for small-medium sized fishing boats sailing the Gulf of Thailand. The people of Koh Jik live in the tradition of a local fisherman’s village. It now receives occasional tourists who seek to escape the chaos of Bangkok.
Koh Jik is only a few kilometers away from the nearest mainland but no grid connection was ever installed, mainly due to the lack of financial feasibility for the utility to invest in the cables to deliver power to 400 people. This is the fate of many dozens of islands in Thailand and would have been the same for Koh Jik if not for the micro-grid that was installed to electrify the island in 2004.
The island is situated in Chanthaburi Province, Thailand and has a land area of approximately 1.12 km2.
The system was designed so that daytime load (~10 kW) is met by PV, diesel generator covers evening peak demand (~20 kW) from 6pm-10pm, leaving the rest of the night to be supplied by batteries. Due to degraded lead-acid batteries, the island now goes dark from 3am-5am. Since the micro-grid has been in place for a long time, the inhabitants have adapted to using power and have a stable consumption profile. The main electrical appliances that can be found on this island are: fans, lighting, refrigerators, radio and water pumps. To prevent overloading the system, the community agrees on prohibiting the use of air conditioning in all buildings/houses even though temperature can reach 35-40°C.
A unique element of the Koh Jik micro-grid is that it is fully community operated and maintained since its commissioning. Koh Jik Energy Service Company (Koh Jik ESCo) was formed to be the community structure responsible for O&M, setting tariffs and collect electricity payments from all households. The ReCharge project will be working closely with Koh Jik ESCo to upgrade the system and ensure that long-term operations is sustained.
Now, several critical components of the system (e.g. batteries) are reaching their end-of-life thus the community is gradually losing access to reliable 24/7 electricity. The share of unsustainable diesel is now constantly rising in order for the community to meet its basic energy demand.
System re-design for optimum share of renewable energy
Deploy state-of-the-art battery system, micro-grid controller and smart meter network
"Proof-of-concept" of new of tariff structure to ensure long-term financial sustainability
The project span is approximately 15 months starting June 2018 and ending September 2019 and is divided in four main phases.
The business model is a crucial part of any micro-grid project. It determines how the cash flows are handled, distributed and ensures the financial viability of the project.
The current business model implemented on Koh Jik around the existing assets is shown in the first schematic below. A governmental grant provided the initial funds for asset purchase which allowed direct electricity production and payment collection. An operator is currently hired by the small community energy company to collect payments in person from the consumers and to operate and maintain the system.
Revenues are kept by the community energy company for maintenance and eventual parts replacements.
The Koh Jik ReCharge business model involves a greater number of parties. The new design simplifies some parts such as payment collection and metering. The project team acts in the best interest of the community and their energy company by supporting and consulting with new design and upgrade of the system.
A procurement partner will be essential for engineering & procurement prior and during the installation phase. Repayment to private investors would be done through the community account while all assets (new and existing) would be owned by the community.
11 scientists and engineers, 9 nationalities and 7 different disciplines
Tanai Potisat "The Chief"
Dan Pezim P.Eng., PMP
Technical Team Leader
Financial Team Leader
Social Team Leader