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TODAY: Floating solar panels in Kranji could be option for private firms seeking to cut carbon footprint

Could the option to tap solar energy be a draw for investors in Singapore? The Economic Development Board (EDB) thinks so.

If things go according to plan, a private company could in future tap energy from floating solar panels at Kranji Reservoir.

The EDB is inviting potential users of renewable energy from the private sector to submit proposals on how they can harness solar energy from a large-scale floating solar photovoltaic system, it said on Wednesday (Oct 31).

Through a request for information, it hopes to determine the demand in the private sector for renewable energy and identify an end-user to partner with.

At the next stage, the EDB and other government agencies will require the selected end-user to do comprehensive studies on the potential environmental impact of the proposed project, before deciding whether to go ahead.

The EDB and national water agency PUB said studies for the project will take place at Kranji Reservoir because of its larger water surface area.

A “small portion” of its surface could yield up to 100 megawatt-peak (MWp) of floating solar photovoltaics. This is equivalent to taking 11,200 cars off the road each year – or a reduction of 52 kilotonnes of carbon emissions a year.

The project is contingent on the results of environmental studies as Kranji Reservoir is an important biodiversity site, the agencies said.

“The pursuit of environmental sustainability can complement our economic growth,” said EDB managing director Chng Kai Fong.

Solar is the most viable renewable energy for large-scale adoption here, and can help generate new economic opportunities, he said.

Private-sector players in Singapore that already adopt solar energy include 3M, Microsoft, Apple and chemical and consumer goods company Henkel.

“Given that land is scarce in Singapore and solar energy is fundamentally dependent on the availability of surface space, the large surface areas of PUB’s reservoirs provide immense potential for solar deployment,” said PUB chief executive Ng Joo Hee.

But environment and water quality should not be compromised, he added.

On Wednesday, the agencies also said PUB will deploy a 50MWp floating solar panel system at Tengeh Reservoir by 2021.

This follows a successful testbed of a 1MWp system launched in October 2016. It was found to perform 5 to 15 per cent better than conventional rooftop systems due to the cooler reservoir environment.

Studies found “no observable change in the reservoir’s water quality” and “no significant impact on the surrounding wildlife”, the agencies said.

Last year, the PUB conducted more environmental and engineering studies for a 50MWp system and also found minimal impact on environment and water quality.

Energy from the 50MWp system will power about 7 per cent of the PUB’s current energy needs. The PUB said it will share more details in a tender to be launched next year.

The PUB previously proposed introducing floating solar panels at Bedok, Lower Seletar and Upper Peirce Reservoirs. The deployment at Upper Peirce, however, depends on the findings of an ongoing environmental impact assessment, it said.

Amid rising temperatures caused by activities such as the burning of fossil fuels, scientists have called for unprecedented changes to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

About 95 per cent of Singapore's electricity is currently generated using natural gas, a fossil fuel, but the Government has deployed solar panels at government sites and public housing blocks.

The Housing and Development Board’s target is to have solar panels on 5,500 blocks by 2020.  

Copyright 2018 MediaCorp Press Ltd. Article first appeared in TODAY on 30 October 2018.


Last updated 26 Dec 2018

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