An island in a Thai national park that was the model for the The Beach, a novel turned into a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, plans to become more self-reliant thanks to the sun and a hand from the Thai government.
Thailand has earmarked 172 million baht (US$5.4 million) to build a 1 megawatt solar farm with a 1.5 megawatt-hour energy storage system, along with a 600 kilowatt diesel generator, on Koh Phaluai, about 32km from Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, the latter home to the “full-moon parties” featured in the fictional tale.
Phaluai has only a few hundred inhabitants, mostly fishermen and farmers. There is no central source of electricity, so homes use small diesel-fueled generators for power.
Energy self-reliance would narrow the inequality between residents and people on the mainland, the government said in a statement after the Cabinet approved the plan.
When the project is complete, Phaluai will be the first Thai island to have a micro-grid system that can generate, store and distribute electricity without relying on power sources on the mainland — many larger of Thailand’s larger islands get their electricity via underwater cables.
The concept of using independent micro-grids to power remote places is relatively new and has high up-front costs compared with a generator.
Engie SA has built demonstration micro-grids for Singapore’s Semakau Island and said that it sees opportunities across Southeast Asia, a region with thousands of islands — many without access to traditional power plants.
The remote setting and tropical environment of Phaluai and neighboring islands are similar to what was described in The Beach, a tale of a young man’s search for an idyllic beach, which has a community of international backpackers.
The 1996 book was turned into a DiCaprio movie in 2000, although filming was done mostly on more-developed Phi Phi Islands in the Andaman Sea, not on Phaluai.
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