THAILAND – Nestled in a deep pocket of forest that lies off Thailand’s electrical grid, villagers in Pa Deng have become early adopters and evangelists for an unusual alternative energy source: Poop.
After successfully lighting up their homes with solar panels and stoves fueled by cow dung, the villagers are now clean energy crusaders in a gas-guzzling country that overwhelmingly relies on fossil fuels.
It was a friend from Myanmar who first told 44-year-old Wisut Janprapai that feces could be used to power a cooking stove.
“At first we didn’t believe it,” he told AFP from outside his wooden home, which is surrounded by fruit trees and under the shadow of a mountain range that lines Thailand’s western border with Myanmar.
But with no access to state power lines and plenty of cow manure to go around, Wisut and his neighbors reasoned it was worth a try.
Now nearly 100 families in the rural network have small stoves running on blue bio-gas balloons they crafted after years of experimenting.
The balloons are hulking polyester sacks that fill up with methane gas after microbes break down the animal manure and other organic waste packed inside.
The fuel source is healthier and more sustainable than burning wood, and also saves villagers from having to venture into the forest for kindling.
“It’s nothing complicated, just put the food and waste in,” explained Kosol Saengthong, the leader of the network. “And then the gas will come.”
While Pa Deng is powered solely by green energy sources, the rest of Thailand runs chiefly on oil, coal, and natural gas – much of it imported.
Successive governments, including the current junta, have warned that the country faces an energy crisis on current consumption trends unless new power sources are embraced.
The kingdom is the second largest consumer of energy in Southeast Asia after Indonesia, according to US government data from 2013, and the 22nd biggest user in the world.
Consumption is also heavily skewed. Most of the power is funneled to sprawling Bangkok, where some of the capital’s luxury malls suck up more energy than entire provinces.
But compared to its impoverished neighbors, Thailand is a leading investor in renewables and plans to increase its reliance on clean-burning fuels from 12 percent to 25 percent in the next five years. (AFP)