Thursday, 27 October 2016

World's largest floating solar photovoltaic cell test-bed launched in Singapore

Floating solar-cell test bed is world's largest
$11m project at Tengeh Reservoir will study performance and cost-effectiveness of 10 different systems
By Samantha Boh, The Straits Times, 26 Oct 2016

The Tengeh Reservoir, out in the western reaches of Tuas, has acquired a space-age look, with thousands of dark blue squares now covering its tranquil surface.

These make up the world's largest floating solar-cell test bed - solar on steroids, if you will - an amalgam of 10 different systems which will, in December, begin to soak up the sun.

Over six months, the $11 million project the size of about 11/2 football fields will be studied for the performance and cost-effectiveness of the various systems. The power generated will also be sent to the grid, to fuel Singapore's electricity needs.

Announcing the initiative at the Asia Clean Energy Summit yesterday, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said sustainability should not be considered as an alternative or a trade-off to economic development. "Rather, the pursuit of clean and renewable energy development is a venture into greater opportunities and growth, and also a necessary step into the green era," he said at the event in the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

Each solar photovoltaic system, consisting of solar cells that can convert sunlight directly into energy, has a peak capacity of 100 kilowatts, enough to power 30 four-room HDB flats for a year. Over 150 sensors and other monitoring devices will capture the data to see which performs best. The floating system will also be compared against a rooftop system that has been laid on a building nearby.

Eventually, the two best floating systems will be chosen and placed on a larger trial of 1 megawatt peak capacity each, enough to power 300 four-room HDB flats for a year.

Three of the eight firms participating in the trial are local small and medium-sized enterprises, with the remaining five being international firms. Examples of systems being tested include one using solar cells that let in sunlight from both sides, and another that can be cooled with water pumped in from the reservoir to improve their performance.

The scientific evaluation will be conducted by the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore.

National water agency PUB will also look at the environmental impact on the reservoir, such as the effect on evaporation, water quality and biodiversity.

The Economic Development Board (EDB) and PUB initiative was initially meant to be operational by 2013, but met a three-year delay because of technical and logistical complexities that included securing the land and ensuring the electrical substation was big enough to accept the electricity generated.

Floating solar cells are looking increasingly attractive for Singapore to harness sunlight given limitations in roof space on land, and also their higher performance. Research suggests they can be up to 20 per cent more efficient than rooftop systems in tropical countries.

A side benefit is that they act as a blanket, lowering the evaporation of precious reservoir water.

Singapore's goal is to produce 350 megawatt peak of solar energy by 2020, enough to meet 5 per cent of the country's electricity needs. Currently, 95 per cent is fuelled by natural gas.

Mr Goh Chee Kiong, executive director for cleantech at EDB, said floating photovoltaic panels have caught on in the past year or two, in places like Japan, China, Europe and the United States. "It is a highly exportable know-how and sector that we want to groom, and we are seeing that through the strong interest by the various companies wanting to participate in the test bed in Singapore… including energy giants," he said.

Energy from many sources in one grid
By Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 26 Oct 2016

It is already possible to harness energy from the sun, wind or tides for electricity. But making them work together in an integrated system used to be just a theory - until now.

Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) are building the region's first large-scale, offshore power grid system on 64,000 sq m of land, roughly the size of eight football fields.

The system on Semakau Landfill, south of Singapore, will have four separate microgrids, each with its own composition of energy sources.

Called the Renewable Energy Integration Demonstrator-Singapore (REIDS), the project will look at combining renewable power from the sun, wind and sea, as well as from diesel, storage and power-to-gas technologies, to ensure all these energy sources operate well together.

The deployment of REIDS on Semakau was announced yesterday by Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli during the Asia Clean Energy Summit at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

Having multiple energy sources within each grid will help overcome the challenges of using renewable energy, such as the intermittency of solar energy on cloudy days, or the lack of wind on a still day. This is because electricity can still come from other energy sources, or from the storage devices, when the supply of one is short.

Led by the Energy Research Institute @ NTU and supported by the Economic Development Board (EDB) and National Environment Agency (NEA), the grid costs an initial $10 million and is expected to draw $20 million in project investments over the next five years.

"(REIDS) will enable NEA to power its infrastructure on Semakau Landfill using electricity generated through zero-carbon means," said Mr Masagos. "The use of energy storage and microgrid control technologies will allow the landfill to reduce its reliance on diesel-based power and transition towards renewable energy."

The announcement marks the launch of the second phase of the REIDS project, which was first announced by Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran in 2014. The first phase of the project - the installation of 3,000 sq m of solar panels, or the first microgrid - has already been completed.

The next step is to build three more microgrids. Once all four are ready by the third quarter of next year, they are expected to produce stable and consistent power - enough for about 250 four-room Housing Board flats.

Fish hatcheries on Semakau, as well as a desalination plant that scientists hope to build there, will be among the first to be powered.

Professor Hans Bjorn Puttgen of NTU, who is principal investigator and REIDS director, said microgrid systems could be used to provide electricity on islands, in remote villages, or during emergency situations such as after a natural disaster.

EDB executive director of cleantech Goh Chee Kiong said Singapore has identified microgrids as a key area for the clean energy industry.

There is already regional interest in REIDS. Two agreements were inked yesterday between REIDS developers and industry players.

A hotel on Bawah Island, an Indonesian island in the South China Sea that is run on diesel generators, yesterday signed a pact with NTU to deploy a renewable energy microgrid by next year through the REIDS platform.

Meralco, the largest electricity distribution company in the Philippines, will partner REIDS to embark on microgrid projects and perform joint research and development.

Wanted: Smart meters for households
Agencies call for proposals to develop technologies to read gas, water, electricity meters remotely
By Samantha Boh, The Straits Times, 25 Oct 2016

How much water, electricity and gas one uses - information that now comes only in your monthly bill - could become available in real time via a mobile application.

The Energy Market Authority (EMA), national water agency PUB and Singapore Power called for proposals yesterday to develop and test technologies that will allow for water, electricity and gas meters to be read remotely in a reliable and cost-effective way.

If the smart metering system proves successful after the trial, it will be implemented across the island with dual benefits - help households cut unnecessary use of utilities and save on manpower.

Currently, meters are read manually only once every two months, but the agencies hope the smart solutions proposed will allow consumers to see how much they are consuming every half an hour.

"This would allow consumers to make informed decisions on their consumption and conservation of utilities," said Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran yesterday at the opening ceremony of the ninth Singapore International Energy Week at Marina Bay Sands.

The trial will start in early 2018 and last for six months, but it has not been decided which households or how many will be involved.

Singapore has had smart meters for electricity since 2014, but only for consumers who use at least 2,000 kilowatt hour of electricity a month and have switched to buying electricity from an electricity retailer or the wholesale electricity market.

Singapore households can buy electricity from only Singapore Power.

This is also the first time that an integrated system that will be able to read all utilities at once is being developed here.

It could involve the installation of new meters or retrofitting of existing meters with, for example, optical character recognition technology that will read the meter like how a person would, and record the information automatically.

"We think there will be economies of scale. Using the same platform to cover more meters will bring down the cost," said Mr Soh Sai Bor, acting assistant chief executive at the EMA's economic regulation division.

In the Intelligent Energy System Pilot conducted by the EMA in Punggol in 2012, a small group of households were given a portable device that provided real-time information about their electricity consumption. These households lowered their electricity consumption by a few per cent.

"In terms of utility bills of households, it was relatively small but, when all these little efforts are put together, they would translate into something more impactful in terms of reducing our overall energy consumption," Mr Soh said.

The improvement is expected to be greater with the upcoming smart metering trial.

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