NO project is too small for Johorean businessman Tham Chee Aun. From installing two pieces of solar panels back home seven years ago, his company has spread its wings to Singapore and Bangladesh.
The 34-year-old CEO of Ditrolic Solar says the company marked another milestone recently with its plan to build 50MW solar farm involving 200,000 solar panels in Bangladesh.
It would be the largest solar project undertaken by any Malaysian company so far.
Once completed, the US$80mil solar project will generate electricity that can power the equivalent of 35,000 homes in Bangladesh’s Mymensingh district, located some 120km north its capital Dhaka.
On Oct 19, the Bangladesh Power Development Board and HDFC Sinpower Ltd, an associate company of Ditrolic (S) Pte Ltd, signed a 20-year power purchase agreement to meet one-third of the power demands of Mymensingh’s Gouripur sub-district. The company’s project in Singapore is also noteworthy.
They are set to install a 3.6MW solar system at the ancillary buildings of the iconic Changi Airport. This is expected to be completed in December.
Looking back, Tham, who is an electrical engineer by training, admits that they went through a “tough period” when he took over the company in 2009.
The company, incorporated as Ditrolic Sdn Bhd in 1991, was an electrical company started by Tham’s father before he decided to move into solar projects. As the solar industry was just in its infancy then, there was not much opportunities within the country.
“We had to operate in larger markets way back in 2010. We did small projects in Indonesia and in the Philippines. It was tough,” he recalls.
Ditrolic Solar saw a change in fortune when the Government rolled-out the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) programme, offering an opportunity for households and small-and-medium enterprises to generate revenue by installing solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on their rooftops.
The incentive programme was popular as owners of solar PV systems get to sell the power generated back to the local utility company at a subsidised feed-in tariff rate three times higher than the normal electric tariff for 21 years.
From then on, business came naturally to Ditrolic Solar, with the company controlling as much as 20% of the market share of solar PV systems in Malaysia, Tham says.
But the mushrooming of solar project firms from a mere 20 in 2009 to 150 today pushed Tham having to look for opportunities abroad. Their local market share has also dwindled to just over 10%.
The projects in Bangladesh and Singapore are the fruits of their overseas search.
“When we got the project in Bangladesh, it was a relief. Our hard work for more than two years has finally paid off,” says Tham.
The Mymensingh solar farm project will be developed in partnership with Bangladeshi company IFDC Solar Power (BD) Ltd and SHS Holdings Ltd, a company listed on the Singapore Exchange.
The project will see the installation of some 200,000 solar panels across 150 acres of land and is set to be completed by April 2018