Construction begins for Singapore first large-scale floating solar panel system at Tengeh Reservoir

Despite its small size, Singapore does not shrink from its environmental and climate responsibility. It is taking steps to reduce its overall carbon footprint.

In a press release published on August 18, the Singapore national water agency, PUB, and Sembcorp Floating Solar Singapore announced that the construction of a 60 megawatt-peak (MWp) floating solar photovoltaic (PV) system on Tengeh Reservoir has begun.

This system enables Singapore to be one of the few countries in the world to integrate green technology with water treatment. Clean energy generated will be used to power PUB’s local water treatment plants when the system begins full commercial operations in 2021, offsetting PUB’s annual energy need by 7 percent.

The stage was initially set in 2016 when PUB and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) launched a 1MWp floating solar PV testbed at Tengeh Reservoir to study the feasibility of deploying floating solar PV systems on Singapore reservoirs.

At the end of the trial, this 1MWp system was found to perform five to fifteen percent better than conventional solar PV rooftop system due to the cooler reservoir environment. There were also no observable change in the reservoir’s water quality and no significant impact on the surrounding wildlife based on studies conducted.

PUB conducted further engineering and environmental studies in 2017 to assess feasibility of large-scale deployment. Findings from the studies showed minimal impact on the environment and water quality. PUB also engaged Environmental nature groups throughout the study to ensure minimal disruption to the ecology and biodiversity at Tengeh Reservoir.

Favourable results from the studies was what enable PUB to decide to scale up the testbed and deploy a 50MWp floating PV system.

Green and safe for the environment

It would be ironic if the system itself leaves behind a large carbon footprint or damages the environment during operation.

That is why every component of the system was carefully designed and selected based on Singapore’s climate, which is hot and humid. This is to maximise energy generation, minimise environmental and water quality impact, and the system be durable enough to last 25 years. For example, the PV modules are doubled-glassed instead of single-glassed, allowing them to last longer in a wet and humid environment typical of reservoirs.

Furthermore, the PV modules are supported by certified food-grade quality high density polyethylene (HDPE) floats which are UV-resistant, thus allowing them to survive the intense sunlight exposure.

Comes with smart technologies to enhance operations

The system is not just green but smart too.

It is backed by a digital monitoring platform which features safety cameras, ‘live’ video monitoring, dashboards and alerts that will help track environmental factors such as wind speed, solar irradiation and ambient temperature. This will help PUB to optimise the performance and reliability of operations.

Furthermore, the monitoring platform also detects abnormalities that may indicate potential overheating or fire hazard. This allows for preemptive troubleshooting. Through the use of a mobile application, staff will be able to monitor the system remotely and enable maintenance teams to be deployed swiftly when required.

What’s next?

EDB launched a two-stage Request For Information (RFI) for the possibility of a 100MWp floating solar PV system to be deployed at Kranji Reservoir for private sector consumption in 2018.

At the first stage, the RFI will invite potential renewable energy user from the private sector to submit proposals on how they can harness solar energy. The EDB hopes to determine the private sector’s demand for renewable energy during this stage and identify an end-user who will partner with relevant government agencies to evaluate the feasibility of this large-scale floating solar PV system.

The second stage will require the selected end-user to perform comprehensive studies to assess the potential environmental impact of the system. After which, a decision will be made to deploy the solar PV system.

The Singapore government also increased its target for solar energy in October 2019, aiming to harness enough power from the sun equivalent to about 4 percent of the country’s total electricity demand or about 2GWp. This target is build on the previous target of generating 350MWp of power from the sun by 2020, which the country met in April 2020.

To meet this target, the government will take the lead to maximise deployment of solar PV panels on rooftops of private industrial buildings and commercial buildings. Furthermore, solar panels will also be deployed on the rooftops of public sector buildings.

At the same time, the Energy Market Authority (EMA) is aiming to deploy 200 megawatts of energy storage system (ESS) beyond 2025. They are partnering with Korea Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning (KETEP) to develop a new hybrid ESS that combines lithium iron phosphate and lithium iron manganese phosphate batteries with capacitors. If the latter is successful, the hybrid ESS will be safer and more suitable for the country’s hot and humid conditions.

With the ESS, Singapore can shave off the difference between peak demands within the daily cycle, thereby reducing our dependence on fossil fuel to generate additional power.