Sunday, 7 June 2015

900 HDB blocks, eight govt sites to be equipped with solar panels

First batch of installations expected to be complete by the end of 2017
By Siau Ming En, TODAY, 5 Jun 2015

Less than four years after it explored solar leasing as a power option, the Government has pushed on more aggressively to tap the sun’s energy with a first-ever tender for photovoltaic (PV) panels to be installed across multiple public-sector premises.

The tender put up today (June 5) for solar panels capable of collectively producing 40 megawatts-peak (MWp) — the largest to date in both the private and public sectors — will include 900 Housing and Development Board (HDB) blocks as well as installations at eight Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Public Utilities Board (PUB) sites. The contracts for the housing blocks alone is nearly as large as all those awarded by the HDB from September 2011 until now.

Under this tender, solar PV systems will be installed at Tuas Checkpoint, Woodlands Checkpoint, Home Team Academy, Airport Police Division and MHA-HQ at Phoenix Park under the MHA. For the PUB, the installation will be at Changi Water Reclamation Plant, Bedok Waterworks and WaterHub. The solar energy generated will be used to power their facilities.

The systems will also be installed on the rooftops of about 900 HDB blocks managed by the Pasir Ris-Punggol, Holland-Bukit Panjang, Ang Mo Kio, Chua Chu Kang, Sembawang and Nee Soon town councils.

The solar energy will be used for common services, such as to power lifts, corridor and staircase lights. A capacity of 40MWp could potentially generate enough electricity to power about 10,000 four-room units for a year.

With the latest tender, close to 2,000 HDB blocks will be partially powered by solar energy. There are currently more than 9,000 HDB blocks in Singapore.

In a joint press release today, the HDB and the Economic Development Board (EDB) made clear that more tenders would be called in the next four to five years, as the Government goes for the target of having solar power contribute 350MWp to Singa­pore’s system by 2020.

More public agencies are primed to harness solar energy under the SolarNova programme spearheaded by the EDB, which encourages government bodies to hop on the bandwagon. With the Government driving the push, it will spur the growth of the solar industry in Singapore, said an EDB spokesperson, while agencies with a smaller solar PV demand will benefit from economies of scale and enjoy cheaper solar energy.

Last August, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the defence and education ministries had expressed interest in having solar panels installed on their premises. TODAY understands both ministries are keen on participating in future tenders.

In response to queries, executive director of Cleantech in EDB Goh Chee Kiong said the programme is open to all government agencies to participate in, and more than 10 agencies and ministries had expressed interest in the programme. Some examples of government buildings with solar panels include the National Environment Agency’s Upper Air Observatory building and Jurong Town Council’s Cleantech One.

An MHA spokesperson said the ministry would explore the feasibility of extending the use of solar technology to more of its facilities.

Unlike solar leasing tenders awarded before October last year, the HDB and the other agencies taking part in the latest bulk tender will not need to fund any portion of the upfront costs of such projects due to the economies of scales reaped from larger tenders.

The HDB also noted the development of the local solar industry, citing the growing participation from companies in the HDB’s past solar leasing tenders — there were three bidders in its first tender in 2011, while the latest one last year attracted seven firms. “As the scale of and capabilities in the local solar industry grow, the implementation of solar technology on a larger scale has become more cost-effective,” it added.

Experts whom TODAY spoke to welcomed the Government’s lead in calling for the bulk tender, noting that the industry would become more competitive and encourage more in the private sector to take up solar technology.

Installation works that fall under this bulk tender are expected to be finished by the end of 2017. The tender will close on Aug 14, and will likely be awarded in the fourth quarter of this year.

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