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Rice miller pilots solar warehouses

(Phnom Penh Post: December 20, 2020)

In a first for the Kingdom, leading organic rice miller and exporter AMRU Rice (Cambodia) Co Ltd will pilot the use of solar energy in its facilities to increase energy sustainability during dry-season production lines that are often riddled with power outages.

AMRU Rice vice-president Kann Kunthy told The Post on December 20 that the solar power system had been installed on the roof of a paddy warehouse in Kampong Thom province’s Prasat Balang district.

The 262-kilowatts-peak system is under a Build-Operation-Transfer (BOT) scheme, backed by an estimated capital investment of $500,000 from Total, he said.

“AMRU Rice did not spend money on construction – we have provided a location for the solar panel installation and we’ll buy power from the supplier [Total] for a specific period of time.

“Once [Total] gets back the full amount of money from the sale of energy, the solar power system will be transferred to us [AMRU Rice],” Kunthy said.

He said the system was installed and synchronised with the power transmission line of the state with the permission of state-run electricity supplier Electricite du Cambodge (EdC), in accordance with the law.

“The use of solar energy will help boost the rice sector, such as by shortening the time spent in milling and drying paddy. It will also help the production line to meet the demand of domestic and foreign customers in a timely manner,” Kunthy said.

He said the use of solar energy systems also meets the seventh of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is to provide affordable and environmentally friendly energy.

Hence, he said, the use of solar energy systems in the rice sector not only supply energy as needed, but also help the Earth.

“The use of renewable energy will not pollute the environment and will reduce greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide emissions,” Kunthy said.

Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) secretary-general Lun Yeng said the increase in solar power would help stabilise power in rice mills, but that production costs would still be high compared to buying power from the EdC.

He said the government currently does not encourage such investments because companies have to pay for power and electricity capacity tariffs, but added that he hopes the government will change its policy to encourage the use of alternative energy sources down the line.

“What the company has done sets a good example as an organic rice producer tied to a solar power project, but solar installation is not yet profitable for our members,” Yeng said.

Victor Jona, the director-general of the Ministry of Mines and Energy’s General Department of Energy, previously told The Post that the private sector should use energy purchased from the EdC, which has a proper and low-cost national grid connection.

“With an appropriate and stable supply of electricity, there’d be no need to invest” in other sources, he said.

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