Here’s why Malaysia should focus on solar energy


Solar energy is not only green and safe, there’s going to be a huge demand for it. So Penang and the rest of Malaysia should get their act together and take a closer look at it. Already, Selangor Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim was reported in theSun yesterday as saying that they were looking at developing new technology such as solar power. Well, what about Penang? (There is already an MNC, First Solar, which produce solar modules and has operations in Kulim, Kedah, points out blog reader Kulo.)

Instead of going down the nuclear energy path, we should be checking out the solar energy sector, which is booming. Over in the United States, the Daily Journal of Commerce in Portland, Oregon reports:

In 2007, the solar industry nationally marked its best year ever, raking in $20 billion. But those close to the industry say the best is yet to come: In 10 years, the industry’s revenues are expected to triple.

Much of this growth is dependent on how the industry is incentivized, lawmakers said.

The hope is to create better incentives for individual solar use on what’s known as “the front and back end.” This would make it easier for individuals with solar panels to essentially resell excess energy back to the grid.

Currently, solar advocates argue, the federal government doesn’t prioritize private solar energy storage.

Blog reader George forwarded this report from the Washington Post, highlighting how Germany is phasing out nuclear power plants in favour of renewable energy (although recently there has been a revival of the debate as nuclear power advocates in the current administration try to block that phase-out):

…a law adopted in 2000. It requires the country’s huge old-line utility companies to subsidize the solar upstarts by buying their electricity at marked-up rates that make it easy for the newcomers to turn a profit. Their cleanly created power enters the utilities’ grids for sale to consumers.

Solar energy is not just a dream; it is already creating “green collar” jobs – lots of them:

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German officials readily acknowledged that they are embracing solar technology not just for its environmental benefits. German firms that manufacture photovoltaic panels and other components have prospered under the new energy act and now employ 40,000 people. An additional 15,000 people work for companies in the solar-thermal business, which make heating systems for homes and businesses.

Matthias Machnik, an undersecretary for the German ministry of the environment, said the country can’t hope to compete in the long term with perpetually sunny ones in generating solar power. But it hopes to expand its exports of solar technology and become the leader in that field as well.

Solar energy plants are also easy to maintain:

It is so clean and green that it produces zero emissions and so easy to operate that it has only three regular workers: plant manager Hans-Joerg Koch and his two security guards, sheepdogs Pushkin and Adi.

Well, if cloudy Germany can tap into solar power, shouldn’t we be taking a closer look at it? Why go down the nuclear power route or build so many dams like there is no tomorrow? We have an abundant solar energy source: plenty of sunshine in Malaysia (at least on days when it is not hazy!) – but do we have the vision to see clearly?

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  1. Yes it is good to know that the Malaysian government is trying effortlessly to implement Green Energy Policy but what effort or how do the effort is being done to channel the benefits to the general public.

    I think we need to get away from the hype and industry self interest and look at the picture as a whole. We need to provide relevance to Malaysia, not just parrot the WEST and western oriented NGOs. Most of all, we need to put our limited resources where it is needed most – the poorer 40% of the population.

    It is important and continuing effort to use the power of information and technology to help people.

    The initiative is to work to improve flow of vital information to improve basic services for the poor.

    Support efforts to provide information to empower citizens and communities, providers, and policy makers is very important to improve the delivery of essential public services such as education, health, water and sanitation.

  2. I agreed with engineer.I work with one of the solar manufacturer at selangor.It is a very dangerous process that we used.Also the chemical like Silane,amnonia,HCL,printing paste that can caused cancer.
    Actually,the average efficiency for single solar wafer are only around 16.1%.This the best record for the best manufacturer on the main stream.

  3. I’ve been looking for a non-profit society / org that will help home owners that are thinking of getting solar electricity for their home,on DIY style, but to no avail.

  4. Solar power can be the future energy revolution in Malaysia, as its abundant and best of all its free. But the only problem is the set up cost though currently you may see price reductions but the overall cost to generate X amount of kWh is still tremendously high. If only the government pushes TNB for a higher PPA for solar, investors will only be able to recoup their investment within 15 – 20 years. So does the Government expects the country to go green without them fully supporting it. Basically we are importing 35% of energy need as its generated by coal and we don’t have coal. So why not invest in solar to offset that 35% and take full control of our generating power. I am currently negotiating with a MNC to look into investing in solar plant and god willing, I hope we are able to conclude sumtin positive.

  5. Thanks to the is blog, I managed to get a good solar spotlight …
    Why wait? we can go green today and enjoy the sun energy!

  6. Nothing is going to happen unless the BN (people) and their buddies can make plenty of money from it. For the time being, keep on dreaming.

  7. There will come a day (soon, I hope) that we will change from petrol-driven cars to plug-at-home electric cars. That will create a massive demand for electricity.

    I have doubts that solar power will be able to fulfull this need and thus, there has to be an alternate source in tandem with solar. In the Malaysian context, while we have lots of sunshine, the rains come down at around 2-3 pm and for about an hour, it is dark. Does this loss of intensity affect the generation of solar power ? How effective can solar power be stored ?

    Perhaps we cannot be fully dependant on solar power. Thus hydro and nuclear alternatives have to be considered as less polluting alternantives to the environment, compared to coal and gas.

    Omitting the security and waste issue, would the operation of a nuclear facility be less harmful to the environment than hydro ?

    Don’t get me wrong. I am all for a cleaner environment but there has to be a cost-benefit attached to each alternative, which I am quite ignorant about.

  8. There are still time for the Malaysian scientists (and those aspiring to be one) to look into the more efficient and cleaner ways to build the solar panels for larger consumption use by the citizens. There is no use complaining about the CO2 emission and high costs when we can’t even get our foot into the R&D stage of all these.

    We have smart people, so get moving. It does not mean that the plant in China is doing the best. We can always come up with something better. Like the Japanese improved on the inventions of the Americans after WW2.

  9. People who says Solar cells are clean and green are either dreamers, ignorant or LIARS…

    could you please show us a solar cell factory and tell us how much CO2 they release to the atmostphere in the process of manufacturing evvery parts that make up the solar panel?

    Yeah yea yeaah, the solar panel sits quietly, no noise, no sound, no exhaust as it gather the solar energy…

    BUT how much energy was spent to produce the silicon wafers or any other materials for the wafer, and compare it to the total energy output it will produce in its lifetime>


    Then how much do we pay for your energy per kWh? can u sell to us at existing govt rate or u need taxpayers to subsidise?

    If scientist can improve the efficiency of solar panels to at least 50% only them you can scream and shout. as of now isnt it somewhere between 19% to 30 % for the most expensive cells they use at the space station??

    any smart ass care to answer this???

  10. dear anil
    I just cannot imagine the extent of a national disaster if there is a nuclear plant leak. Are our skilled manpower and nuclear scientists able to cope with such a situation? The only solar energy we see is the solar powered parking meters. But we want to go into space before we can walk.Perhaps start with traffic lights which fail after a heavy rainfall.

  11. just live in an old shop house the way they were originally designed – cooling terracotta floors, carbon dioxide absorbing lime plaster brick walls, open air wells and timber shutters, terracotta tiled roofs just how they lived 150 years ago – no rocket science needed, – and all you need are fans.

  12. Anil, good effor in this piece to provoke our thoughts in the ever-present discourse of energy options. Obviously, there is a lack of serious discussion and policy debate on the issue of energy outlook in Malaysia, both in terms of energy secutiry and environmental concerns. While you know better me how the BN government policies such is this nuclear initiative are shaped by industry lobbyist (or crony, the more exact term), equally disturbing is the absent of the Pakatan Rakyat which has yet to offer their visions, will and actions on energy policies.

    Industry lobbying is always there, where opportunity to make money exsits, regardless who is in power. So, for me it is hardly convincing that if PR come into power at the federal level, they can resist nuclear power / large hydropower deals and opted for more sustainable options.

    What we should focus on is not solar energy, or nuclear or hydro or biomass. We should focus on getting rid of “One tech, fix all” paradigm. Every consultancy or tech firm out in the market will tell you their technology gives the best cost-benefit return. Our energy policies should be less industry and profit driven, and that we have nothing else to rely on: the quality of most research paper generated by Malaysia researchers are fit only to be presented on some local conference and locked in the cabinet.

    Let me nag one more time. Pakatan Rakyat, what is your energy policy? What do you promise to me and my children? And the academicians, forget it, 90% of them are not supposed to be called one at all.

  13. Anil

    That is the way to go and support you all the way that Penang should have factories building solar panels. It is green and the more is produced, cheap will be and we will cut down thermal power plants, hydro gen. All factories in Malaysia should have solar panel roof and the electricity generated can either be used locally, sell to TNB or charged the battries and use during peak demand or night time.

    The world needs more eneergy and solar power is one of the best option today.

  14. Anil,

    PJ has this amazing NGO: CETDEM (Centre for Environment, Technology and Development). I had the chance to follow a few trainings with the team, including founder Gurmit Singh, whom I consider an outspoken pioneer in terms of sustainable energy for Malaysia.
    Sorry to dampen the enthusiasm, but despite the notoriously scorching Malaysaian sun, Gurmit has meaningful reservations about the actual potential for solar energy in Malaysia. It appears the changing weather may mean Malaysia would draw less power from it than say shady Denmark or Germany.
    If you have the time/ opportunity, I think an interview of yours with CETDEM would help enhance everyone’s knowledge. I’d be happy to introduce you to CETDEM.

    Keep up the good work!

  15. With the Germans phasing out from nuclear powered plant, all these scraps may finds its way to this country as new.

    I won’t rule this out in this Bolehland.

    Just like what Pat commented on my previous post on nuclear power plant..

    “They cant even managed our garbage system efficiently. How do you expect them to maintain a nuclear power plant?”

    Good point there, Pat.

  16. It is a way to go, especially fuel prices are going to remain high for a long time to come. Australia made a mistake ignoring in advancement of solar energy, although, we have ideal conditions for tapping energy from the sun.
    China has a successful plant in Wuxi producing advance solar panels, managed by an Australian trained scholar specializing in these products. The irony is, Australia is importing panels from this plant when she has the oportunity, knowledge and financial capabilities to set it out on her own. If Malaysia is to compete in this field, she needs to move fast or perhaps, have a joint venture with plant owner in China.


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