Run­ning out of land, Sin­ga­pore is test­ing the fea­si­bil­ity of float­ing so­lar pan­els.

Run­ning out of land, Sin­ga­pore is test­ing the fea­si­bil­ity of float­ing so­lar pan­els to keep its ever-grow­ing en­ergy con­sump­tion at bay.

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Contents - HENRI VIIRALT

MInOc­to­ber 2016, the is­land na­tion of Sin­ga­pore an­nounced the launch of the world’s largest so­lar cell test­bed in the Tengeh Reser­voir, a project mea­sur­ing over one hectare or roughly 11/2 foot­ball fields, to ex­am­ine the ef­fec­tive­ness of dif­fer­ent so­lar pho­to­voltaic sys­tems.

Speak­ing at the Asia Clean En­ergy Sum­mit, Mr Masa­gos Zulk­i­fli, said the project will run over six months to study the per­for­mance and cost ef­fec­tive­ness of the sys­tems.

“Given our ge­og­ra­phy, so­lar pho­to­voltaic sys­tems are a key tech­nol­ogy in Sin­ga­pore’s ef­forts to har­ness re­new­able en­ergy,” Mr Zluk­i­fli said. “Float­ing pho­to­voltaic sys­tems, those in­stalled over our wa­ter bod­ies, not only help to over­come land con­straints, but also have the po­ten­tial to re­duce evap­o­ra­tive losses from our reser­voirs.”

The fund­ing for the SGD 11 mil­lion project comes from Sin­ga­pore’s Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Board (EDB), Pub­lic Util­i­ties Board ( PUB), and the So­lar En­ergy Re­search In­sti­tute of Sin­ga­pore (SERIS). Eight pri­vate sec­tor com­pa­nies, both do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional, are also par­tic­i­pat­ing in the project.

Dur­ing the first phase of the project, 10 dif­fer­ent types of float­ing struc­tures and pho­to­voltaic sys­tems are de­ployed in the test bed, each gen­er­at­ing around 100kW. Their per­for­mance is also com­pared against a base­line rooftop sys­tem that’s in­stalled on a nearby build­ing, and some of the power sent di­rectly in the grid.

Af­ter the six-month eval­u­a­tion pe­riod, two of the best per­form­ing sys­tems will progress to phase 2 in 2017, for a larger 1MW peak ca­pac­ity trial.

Three of the eight par­tic­i­pants are lo­cal SMEs and the re­main­ing five be­ing in­ter­na­tional firms. Ex­am­ples of sys­tems be­ing tested in­clude one by REC So­lar that uses bi-fa­cial so­lar cells, let­ting in sun­light from both sides, and an­other which can be cooled with wa­ter pumped in from the reser­voir to im­prove their per­for­mance.

“What we are try­ing to es­tab­lish in our so­lu­tion is to in­stall the so­lar panel on the float­ing struc­ture in a way that max­imises the cool­ing ef­fect of the wa­ter. Usu­ally, this com­prises a large piece of plas­tic that is moulded to the so­lar panel with an ex­posed rear side to the wa­ter to cool the unit. We also want to make use of the re­flec­tions from all the light com­ing from the back, so we came up with a bi-fa­cial mod­ule that is ver­ti­cally in­stalled and has so­lar pan­els on both ends,” said Mr Torgeir Ulset, VP Sales & Mar­ket­ing at REC So­lar.

Al­though REC doesn’t have the

full data set to an­a­lyse ef­fi­ciency yet since the mod­ule has been con­nected to the grid less than a month ago, the ini­tial take­aways are largely pos­i­tive.

“Based on the ini­tial re­sults, we can see proof that the con­cept is vi­able and it’s cer­tainly out­per­form­ing the rooftop so­lar pan­els. The per­for­mance ra­tio, which in our field mea­sures the ef­fi­ciency of power out­put, is usu­ally around 80% for most pho­to­voltaic sys­tems. For the float­ing in­stal­la­tion, how­ever, we can see from the data that we’re closer to 90%,” said Mr Ulset.

He notes that this ef­fi­ciency in­crease is very in­ter­est­ing from an in­vest­ment per­spec­tive and thanks to the strong me­dia at­ten­tion to the Tengeh Reser­voir project as well as the le­git­i­macy pro­vided by the Sin­ga­porean gov­ern­ment’s in­volve­ment, has driven a lot of in­ter­est for im­ple­ment­ing float­ing so­lar in the re­gion.

“There have been sev­eral of our clients re­quest­ing to come and see the unit from coun­tries like Myan­mar, Tai­wan, Thai­land, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and we are ac­tively work­ing on ten­ders and pro­vid­ing of­fers in the re­gion,” said Mr. Ulset.

He also points out that a small coun­try like Tai­wan has sev­eral hun­dred MW of float­ing so­lar ca­pac­ity, and that the mar­ket for is al­ready start­ing to take off be­cause of limited land area and the rooftop so­lar mar­ket be­ing sat­u­rated. The Tai­wanese gov­ern­ment has an am­bi­tious plan to re­place a nu­clear re­ac­tor with pho­to­voltaic sys­tems and they need about 2 GW of power gen­er­a­tion com­ing from it. Given the land lim­i­ta­tions, Mr Ulset is bet­ting a lot of it will come from float­ing in­stal­la­tions in reser­voirs and pounds.

To mea­sure the per­for­mance of the mod­ules in the Sin­ga­pore project, SERIS has de­vel­oped an in­no­va­tive mon­i­tor­ing so­lu­tion that tracks move­ments along three di­men­sions and their re­spec­tive ro­ta­tions in real time. They claim this to be par­tic­u­larly use­ful for off­shore pho­to­voltaic sys­tems in the fu­ture, which may not be vis­i­ble from land.

PUB, the na­tional wa­ter agency, has also at­tached a group of sci­en­tists to the project to as­sess the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact on the reser­voir, specif­i­cally the pos­si­ble neg­a­tive ef­fects on bio­di­ver­sity, wa­ter qual­ity and evap­o­ra­tion, as a di­rect re­sult of the in­stal­la­tion and test­ing.

“The re­sults of the en­vi­ron­men­tal stud­ies will al­low us to make more in­formed de­ci­sions on how some of our reser­voirs can sup­port float­ing so­lar PV sys­tems in fu­ture, af­ter tak­ing into ac­count the eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity of these sys­tems,” said Mr Tan Nguan Sen, chief sus­tain­abil­ity of­fi­cer at PUB, in an in­ter­view with PV Tech.

Float­ing so­lar sys­tems are be­com­ing more and more at­trac­tive for Sin­ga­pore to har­ness sun­light due to the lim­i­ta­tions in roof space on land and be­cause re­search has shown that they can be over 20% more ef­fi­cient than rooftop sys­tems in trop­i­cal coun­tries.

“The re­sults of the en­vi­ron­men­tal stud­ies will al­low us to make more in­formed de­ci­sions on how some of our reser­voirs can sup­port float­ing so­lar pho­to­voltaic sys­tems in fu­ture, af­ter tak­ing into ac­count the eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity of these sys­tems,” said Mr Goh Chee Kiong, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at EDB.

“We are con­fi­dent that the float­ing pho­to­voltaic test bed will serve as an im­por­tant ref­er­ence for lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies to scale up their so­lar tech­nolo­gies for global mar­kets,” he added.

EDB has also re­cently se­cured five new in­vest­ments across the fields of so­lar, mi­cro­grids, smart grids and en­ergy man­age­ment in Sin­ga­pore worth a to­tal of SGD 50 mil­lion in cu­mu­la­tive busi­ness ex­pen­di­ture over the next five years.

Mr Kiong also notes that float­ing pho­to­voltaic pan­els are fast catch­ing on in places like Ja­pan, China, Europe and the US.

“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.

And in­deed, the test­ing in Sin­ga­pore is al­ready bear­ing fruit. In early March 2017, Up­so­lar, one of the par­tic­i­pants and the de­vel­oper of so­lar pho­to­voltaic mod­ules has been awarded a con­tract by Hil­vanEn­erjj to sup­ply pan­els for a 23.6MW so­lar­farm in San­li­urfa, Tur­key.

Re­ported by Power Tech­nol­ogy, once in op­er­a­tion, power gen­er­ated by the fa­cil­ity will be able to pro­vide suf­fi­cient elec­tric­ity for ap­prox­i­mately 17,500 house­holds in the re­gion. Con­struc­tion will be­gin in a few months.

The plant will be equipped with 87,630 Up­so­lar UP-M270P mod­ules. This sys­tem can gen­er­ate ap­prox­i­mately 40GWh and save up to 20,000 tonnes of CO an­nu­ally. 2

Up­so­lar Group’s di­rec­tor Tur­key and Mid­dle East Mr Ioan­nis Markatatos said: “This project not only paints a bright fu­ture for Up­so­lar, but also for Tur­key and the Mid­dle East as both re­gions con­tinue to ramp-up their so­lar en­ergy ca­pac­ity.”

Sin­ga­pore it­self needs more juice to ful­fil the role of be­ing the tech hub in South­east Asia, too, pow­er­ing pub­lic cloud heavy­weights like Ama­zon Web Ser­vices, Mi­crosoft Azure and Google Cloud (in 2017). Cur­rently, data cen­tres ac­count for 7% of Sin­ga­pore’s to­tal en­ergy con­sump­tion, which is pro­jected to reach 12% by 2030 due to the con­tin­ued growth of data cen­tres based here.

The gov­ern­ment has em­barked on a long-term plan to es­tab­lish it­self as a key player in green IT, so the push for har­ness­ing sun­light for en­ergy is un­sur­pris­ing, given that there are 17 fresh­wa­ter reser­voirs, mak­ing up to 2/3 of the is­land na­tion’s land sur­face, that could po­ten­tially be utilised for power gen­er­a­tion.

In terms of in­no­va­tion, the gov­ern­ment’s plans to power all our favourite web­sites and ser­vices seem to be even more am­bi­tious.

In 2016, the Info- com­mu­ni­ca­tions Me­dia Devel­op­ment Author­ity (IMDA) an­nounced its plans to con­duct tri­als of the world’s first data cen­tre for trop­i­cal cli­mates, with the ob­jec­tive to de­velop a proof of con­cept that data cen­tres, which can func­tion op­ti­mally at tem­per­a­tures of up to 38 de­grees Cel­sius (nearly dou­ble the rec­om­mended norm), and with an am­bi­ent hu­mid­ity of 90% and above, which can nor­mally ex­pose equip­ment to a high amount of mois­ture that can short­cir­cuit the data servers.

“To cre­ate new value in our Smart Na­tion jour­ney, we need to em­brace an attitude of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, to be will­ing to de­velop new ideas to­gether and test the fea­si­bil­ity of pro­gres­sive and pos­i­tive tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments that have a good pos­si­bil­ity to en­hance our in­dus­try’s com­pet­i­tive­ness,” said Dr Yaa­cob Ibrahim, Sin­ga­pore’s min­is­ter for com­mu­ni­ca­tions and in­for­ma­tion, re­veal­ing the project at the Min­is­te­rial Fo­rum on ICT. Left: REC's float­ing so­lar test­bed in the Tengeh Reser­voir.

PHOTO: REC

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