Singapore hopes to harness sun

Singapore’s Powering the Future study is examining how to boost solar energy production from the current 2 per cent of power that currently comes from the sun. 

But Singapore has limited land for photovoltaic panels and intermittent sunshine because of its heavy cloud.

The aim is to meet 15 per cent of peak demand through solar power.

The perpendicular angle of the sun over the equatorial city makes solar cladding on the side of skyscrapers less efficient than on towers in temperate regions.

One initiative since 2008 aims to install solar panels on Housing and Development Board (HDB) rooftops. There are also plans for floating solar farms in some of the 17 Singaporean reservoirs.

This month Microsoft announced an agreement with Singaporean solar energy operator Sunseap Group for a 60 megawatt-peak (MWp) solar portfolio to generate power for data centres in the tiny republic.

Microsoft purchased 100 per cent of the renewable output from Sunseap’s new 60MW solar project and will use it to power operations in Singapore.

Singapore’s current solar power output of 140 MWp is projected to reach 350 MWp by 2020 or about 5 per cent of projected peak electricity demand.

The HDB, the largest housing developer in the city-state, has about 10,000 residential blocks, with lots of scope for rooftop panels.

“Aspirationally, we want to install solar panels in every block that we can,” HDB deputy director Ng Bingrong said.

Retrofitting rooftops with panels can take up to 40 days per block.

“We’ve to take into consideration the block configuration and how to place the panels, to maximise solar generation, and looking at the existing roof structure design, how to lay the structural support and the trunking of the wiring,” he added.

In 2014, the HDB and Singapore’s Economic Development Board launched the SolarNova programme to accelerate the deployment of solar panels across the Lion City. The project is due to have an estimated capacity capable of powering 88,000, four-room apartments annually.

There are currently more than 2,000 solar panels fitted on Singaporean commercial and residential properties. The Tengeh reservoir in Tuas is home to the world’s largest floating solar-cell test bed, one and half times the size of a football pitch.

Ten systems were being tested so developers could “learn as much as possible before we go into a larger deployment”, said Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore’s Thomas Reindl.


Singapore’s Supertrees generate solar power. Picture credit: Flickr