Sunday, 3 September 2017

Solar-ready roofs for new HDB blocks

18 projects earmarked so far for redesigned rooftops that will ease solar panel installation
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 2 Sep 2017

The Housing Board is reaffirming its commitment to promote sustainable living by redesigning the roofs of new blocks so solar panels can be more easily installed.

As of now, 18 projects have been earmarked, including ongoing projects in Punggol, Bidadari and Bukit Batok.

The HDB, with its stock of 10,000 blocks, is a prime candidate to harness solar energy. It said yesterday new blocks with at least 400 sq m of rooftop space will be "solar-ready". Essential block services like water tanks will be situated to optimise available rooftop space, and support structures and electrical infrastructure for the panels will be catered for.

It will also review other projects currently under construction to see if solar-ready roofs can be incorporated into their designs.

The redesigned rooftops eliminate the necessity for further renovation, reducing the time taken for panels to be installed from 40 days to 25. The cost of installation is also about 40 per cent less.

The HDB has pledged to install solar panels in 5,500 blocks by 2020. This would generate clean energy to power 55,000 four-room flats, or 5.5 per cent of the total number of flats, every year. Carbon emissions will also be cut by 132,500 tonnes a year.

As of July, 944 HDB blocks have had solar panels fitted on their roofs that fully power common services for the estates, like lifts and water pumps. Excess solar energy is channelled to the national electrical grid. Currently, there is enough to power about 10,000 four-room flats each year.

The HDB told The Straits Times not all projects will be handed over to town councils with solar panels installed, as sufficient demand has to be aggregated before a solar-leasing tender is called.

Energy experts welcomed the move. Said Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore deputy chief executive Thomas Reindl: "The future is very bright for solar in Singapore. Beyond 2020, the contribution of solar photovoltaic systems to the total energy consumption of Singapore could be as high as 20 to 30 per cent."

No big cost savings yet, but solar panels vital for energy goals
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 2 Sep 2017

It is unlikely that new HDB block rooftops, designed to make the installation of solar panels faster and cheaper, will translate to lower conservancy fees for residents any time soon.

Nevertheless, MPs and residents told The Straits Times that solar- ready rooftops - which the Housing Board announced yesterday would be incorporated into all new projects - are necessary in ensuring that Singapore's energy goals for the long run can be met.

Currently, 944 of Singapore's 10,000 HDB blocks have solar panels. HDB, which embarked on its solar capability journey in 2008, hopes to install panels on 5,500 blocks by 2020.

Mr Lim Biow Chuan, chairman of the Marine Parade Town Council, said the 110 blocks with solar panels in his GRC have resulted in some cost savings, though not significant enough to lower service and conservancy charges (S&CC).

This is because the bulk of a town council's funds still go to cleaning costs and lift maintenance, he said.

He added: "Of course, everyone wants lower fees. The question is whether it is sustainable to upkeep the estate in the long run. With so many lifts, I think it is quite difficult to do so."

Another reason conservancy fees are unlikely to come down is the cost of installing and maintaining solar panels.

While town councils do not bear the costs upfront - private developers of solar panels do - the capital outlay is substantial and will have to be recovered over time through selling excess electricity generated to the grid, said Nee Soon GRC MP and engineer Lee Bee Wah.

Under HDB's solar leasing model implemented in 2011, town councils purchase solar power generated by the panels at a rate not higher than the retail electricity tariff. Meanwhile, companies recover costs by selling the excess electricity that is not used to power common services like lights and lifts.

Excess solar energy enough to power about 10,000 four-room HDB flats is exported to the grid every month, HDB said.

Mr Ang Wei Neng, chairman of the Jurong-Clementi Town Council, pointed out that using more renewable energy sources would help slow down the rate of S&CC increases in the near term. The bulk of town councils raised their fees in June, with a second increase set to take place next year.

"The town council and residents benefit by not having to pay to light up the corridors and common areas, which are costs that can add up over the years," Mr Ang said.

By 2020, Singapore hopes to attain 350 megawatt peak, the maximum amount of solar power that can be generated under optimum conditions.

This means that, in theory, about 5 per cent of Singapore's energy needs can be met via solar energy. In reality, given the possibility of cloudy or rainy days, this would yield enough output to fuel only 1 per cent of the country's total energy consumption.

But the Government is looking beyond 2020 and at raising the adoption of solar power here to 1 gigawatt peak, through technological improvements and more panels, among other things.

Eco-Business managing editor Jessica Cheam noted that Singapore can achieve more on the solar capability front, especially as costs of installing panels decrease.

"Although the global economy - including Singapore's - is still reliant on fossil fuels in the short term, it is encouraging to see both the public and private sectors making efforts to accelerate the transition into renewable energy. It makes both economic and environment sense," she said.

The pilot for solar-ready roofs began at the six-block Punggol Edge, which resident Delson Lee welcomed. But he also hoped that any cost savings would be passed on to residents. "The cost savings may not be significant now, but we are talking about 20 years from now. Depending on how great the savings are eventually, I think residents should be entitled to rebates every one or two years," he said.

HDB Rolls Out Solar-Ready Roofs for Easier and Faster Installation of Solar Panels -1 Sep 2017

HDB Exceeds 2020 Solar Capacity Target with Fourth SolarNova Tender Launch -14 Dec 2018

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