Thursday 27 October 2016

World's largest floating solar photovoltaic cell test-bed launched in Singapore at Tengeh Reservoir; PUB to explore using reservoirs as solar energy farms

Floating solar-cell test bed is world's largest
$11 million 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.

* PUB to explore using reservoirs as solar energy farms
PUB calling for tenders to study impact on habitats at Tengeh, Upper Peirce reservoirs
By Fabian Koh and Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 30 Sep 2017

Reservoirs could soon play host to floating solar energy farms, national water agency PUB announced in a press statement yesterday.

It said it was planning to explore the implementation of floating solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in reservoirs to utilise their vast surface areas.

It is calling for tenders for engineering and environmental studies for such systems in Tengeh Reservoir and Upper Peirce Reservoir.

Solar energy, which is renewable, reduces Singapore's reliance on fossil fuels and is in line with national climate-change mitigation pledges.

While most solar panels are deployed on land or rooftops, the use of water bodies is beneficial for land-scarce places like Singapore.

A floating solar PV system test bed was launched at Tengeh Reservoir in October last year. It has been shown to perform better than its rooftop counterparts, because of cooler temperatures in its surrounding environment.

Water quality and wildlife were not affected, said PUB.

Potentially, the energy generated could power about 12,500 four-room Housing Board homes.

PUB has consulted environmental groups and will carry out environmental studies at the two reservoirs before making any decision on implementation.

"PUB will continue to study the feasibility of adopting clean energy in our installations. This will help us reduce our dependence on grid energy and carbon footprint. But the lack of deployable land space puts a limit on what we can reap from this clean energy," said PUB chief sustainability officer Tan Nguan Sen.

"The natural option is our vast water surface, but we want to study the possible impact and mitigating measures carefully before reaching a decision to proceed with large-scale floating solar PV deployment."

Conservationist Tony O'Dempsey said he applauds PUB's efforts to include environmental impact assessments in the project and for engaging nature groups. "Of course, our greatest concern is for the Upper Peirce Reservoir site, as the introduction of infrastructure into or adjacent to the (Central Catchment Nature Reserve next door) has the potential to impact natural habitats.

"I think we should be looking at other reservoirs as alternatives. The Lower Seletar Waterworks off Seletar West Link is also a potential beneficiary of direct connection to solar panels that could be deployed in Lower Seletar Reservoir. Other reservoirs may also offer similar possibilities as alternatives."

** Singapore's largest wind turbine built on Semakau Island
It marks first time that wind energy is being used to power offshore island's energy needs
By Lim Min Zhang, The Straits Times, 21 Oct 2017

The Republic's largest wind turbine was unveiled on Semakau Island yesterday, marking the first time that wind energy is being used to power the offshore island's energy needs.

The turbine's three 10.5m long-span rotor blades produce an electrical output of 100 kilowatts, enough to power 45 four-room Housing Board flats.

It is part of the region's first large-scale, offshore power grid system, called the Renewable Energy Integration Demonstrator (REIDS), an initiative by Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Built by French utility company Engie, the turbine is one of up to seven that will generate power for hybrid microgrids on the landfill south of Singapore, as the nation steers itself towards developing sustainable energy.

Each microgrid integrates multiple renewable energy sources such as photovoltaic (solar) panels.

The first phase, which was completed last year, consisted of installing more than 4,500 sq m of photovoltaic panels and a large-scale lithium-ion energy storage system for the first microgrid.

Said Professor Choo Fook Hoong of NTU's Energy Research Institute, which manages the initiative: "The role here is to look at how we can explore renewable energy - integrating different sources into microgrids to benefit not only remote islands and villages, but also urban microgrids that will benefit Singapore in the longer term as a more stable and resilient power supply."

The idea behind using microgrids is that they are independent of the main power grid and require low to no maintenance.

The project is supported by the Economic Development Board and National Environment Agency.

Although there is limited potential for wind turbines on the mainland, developing a diverse mix of renewable energy sources is important because each has its own advantages, said Prof Choo.

"When we look at renewable energy integration, we cannot rely entirely on photovoltaics because that will work only when the sun is out. Wind is different - you have wind at night as well... This allows us to have continuous power supply without having to increase storage capacity, which is not that cheap today," he explained.

The turbine can generate power with wind speeds of as low as 3m per second, up to a maximum of 20m per second.

In the testbed project, up to eight microgrids will eventually cover the size of about nine football fields and will produce enough energy each year to power 100 blocks of four-room HDB flats.

International interest in the project has been growing, with 12 new partners expected to sign agreements with REIDS at the Singapore International Energy Week next week to develop and deploy microgrids in the region.

This would mean more than 20 companies have come on board, including founding members Engie, General Electric Grid Solutions and Schneider Electric.

Mr Goh Chee Kiong, executive director for cleantech at the Economic Development Board, said: "The strong presence of leading energy providers and adopters is testament to REIDS' success in developing an ecosystem, to pilot and develop microgrid innovations from Singapore."

*** Singapore's first large-scale solar floating farm officially opens at Tengeh Reservoir on 14 July 2021
Singapore takes big step for environmental sustainability
Tengeh Reservoir project paves way for more such facilities here, in region: PM Lee Hsien Loong
By Clara Chong, The Straits Times, 15 Jul 2021

Having grown its solar capacity by more than seven times since 2015, Singapore is now one of the most solar-dense cities in the world.

The Republic took one big step towards environmental sustainability when its first large-scale floating solar photovoltaic (PV) system at Tengeh Reservoir - about the size of 45 football fields - was officially opened yesterday.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was the guest of honour at the event.

This latest solar farm at Tengeh, which has a capacity of 60 megawatt-peak (MWp), will contribute to the country's plan to install at least 2 gigawatt-peak of solar PV capacity by 2030.

The project will give the nation's solar and renewable energy industry a boost, paving the way for more such facilities to be built here and in the region, PM Lee said.

The idea of building a floating solar farm surfaced a decade ago when Singapore was looking for ways to harness solar energy at scale. This became an increasingly viable option as the cost of solar cells fell.

Building a floating solar farm also helped to capitalise on the large surface area of reservoirs and allow for solar deployment to be scaled up, PM Lee added.

Spread across 10 solar panel islands, the 122,000 solar panels on the surface of Tengeh Reservoir make up one of the world's largest inland floating solar PV systems.

The energy generated there will go into the national electricity grid, with the full capacity of the solar farm providing enough power for about 16,000 four-room Housing Board flats for a year.

Alternatively, that is more than enough to power the operations of Singapore's water treatment plants that treat reservoir water to produce clean drinking water for the entire nation, PM Lee said.

In 2016, national water agency PUB and the Economic Development Board launched a 1MWp test bed at Tengeh Reservoir, which showed that a floating solar farm was feasible and did not affect surrounding wildlife or water quality.

The test bed also performed up to 15 per cent better than a conventional rooftop solar power system due to the cooler reservoir water, PM Lee said.

He added: "Because the pilot was successful, we are now building similar floating solar farms at Bedok and Lower Seletar reservoirs, which we expect to complete later this year."

The floating solar farm at Tengeh is designed, built, owned and operated by Sembcorp Floating Solar Singapore in partnership with PUB. It was completed in less than a year, despite manpower and resource challenges caused by the pandemic.

The bulk of the construction started last December.

Sembcorp's engineers came up with their own techniques to boost productivity, such as by building a device that sped up the assembly of the solar panels to the floats by up to 50 per cent.

Amid the pandemic's constraints earlier this year, assembling just 1,200 solar panels a day was difficult.

But productivity improvements saw the number of solar panels assembled peaking at around 1,800 to 2,000 a day.

A digital monitoring system has also been set up to track the health of the solar farm.

And as dirt on the panels can reduce operational efficiency, they are tilted at a slight angle to allow rainwater to wash it off.

Drones with thermal-imaging capabilities will also be deployed to detect faulty panels.

Gaps between the solar panels allow sunlight to pass through and deployed aerators will maintain oxygen levels in the water, reducing the impact on biodiversity and water quality of the reservoir, PM Lee said.

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