water-stressed country, Singapore has managed to overcome its water woes and is now one of the leading lights in sustainable water management and a provider of water solution. Singapore is trying to replicate its success in water to the energy sector.
Speaking at the opening of Singapore International Energy Week at Marina Bay Sands on 30 October 2018, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said, “Just like how Singapore has successfully diversified our supply of water over the years, our next ambitious goal is to enhance our energy resilience to ensure that we are never dependent on any single source of supply.”
To this end, the country is investing in infrastructure, tapping green energy and acting as a test-bed for innovative solutions here and abroad.
Rooting for Renewables
Solar energy remains the most promising renewable energy source for Singapore. Even with limited land to deploy solar panels, it has managed to quadruple its solar capacity in the last four years, from 33 megawatt-peak (MWp) in 2014 to around 162 MWp in 2018. The target is to achieve 1 gigawatt-peak (GWp) of solar capacity beyond 2020 by maximising whatever space it can marshal.
JTC Corporation is leading Singapore’s drive for solar energy. Through its SolarRoof and SolarLand initiatives, it aims to generate 100 MWp of installed solar capacity by 2030. Under the SolarLand programme, solar panels are being installed on vacant industrial land on an interim basis. Once the land is triggered for development, the panels will be dismantled and relocated. A 3.9-hectare vacant plot on Jurong Island is being used to pilot the programme.
In JTC’s SolarRoof programme, solar panels have been installed on industrial roofs. The energy generated is exported to the national grid.
Singapore’s solar programme has also taken to the sea. Along the Straits of Johor, north of Woodlands Waterfront Park, Sunseap Group, Southeast Asia’s leading sustainable energy provider, is developing one of the world’s largest offshore floating photovoltaic (PV) systems. The location was chosen for several reasons.
Said Frank Phuan, co-founder and CEO of Sunseap Group, “If you’re in the southern waters, it may float to other parts that are unknown but if it’s in the Straits of Johor we are restricted by the Causeway, we are restricted (within the waters) between Singapore and Malaysia...The Straits of Johor has less maritime activity compared to southern waters, so we feel more confident as well (with this area).”
Once completed, the 5 MWp floating solar system will generate about 6,388 megawatt hour (MWh) of renewable energy annually. This is equivalent to powering about 1,250 4-room flats, with a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of about 2,600 tonnes every year, over the next 25 years and beyond.
Sunseap earlier worked on the world’s largest floating PV test-bed at Tengeh Reservoir. Results have shown that the floating PV systems perform better than typical rooftop solar PV systems because of the cooler environment.
Better Energy Management through Integration
There is also a need to improve energy management through integration. Said Mr Chan, “We need to explore solutions to better integrate renewables into the grid and manage energy demand and supply intelligently, to ensure a reliable energy supply to consumers. With the emergence of new technologies such as energy storage and smart energy management systems, there are exciting new opportunities for our countries and companies to better optimise available capacity.”
Energy storage is a game changer. By being able to store energy for later use, it can help to smoothen the peak and trough in demand, and to better balance their load within a 24-hour cycle. An energy storage system can also resolve the problems of using an intermittent energy source and enhance the stability of the electricity grid, enabling higher levels of solar power adoption.