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World’s Largest Solar Test Bed

The world’s largest floating solar panel testbed will be operational in Singapore by the end of the year, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said on Tuesday (Oct 25).

Mr Masagos said the pilot test of 10 solar energy – or photovoltaic – systems at Tengeh Reservoir is the largest globally in terms of how much power it can produce and the number of systems being tested. He was speaking at the Joint Opening Ceremony of the 3rd Asia Clean Energy Summit and the 26th Photovoltaic Science and Engineering Conference.

The testbed can produce a maximum one-megawatt of energy, enough to power 250 four-room HDB flats for a year.

The pilot aims to determine what works best for Singapore, and to study the environmental impacts of such technologies on water infrastructure, Mr Masagos explained. “Given our geography, solar photovoltaic systems are a key technology is Singapore’s efforts to harness renewable energy.

“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,” he added.

The efficiency of solar panels can also be improved if they are installed over water as the cooling effect will allow them to yield more energy compared to solar panels that are too hot, the Minister said, adding that authorities will explore a wider deployment of such systems, should this pilot prove to be economically viable and environmentally sustainable.

A control solar panel installation on land is also set up on a nearby roof.

Economic Development Board Executive Director for Cleantech Goh Chee Kiong said that Singapore has been observing the various developments around the world and floating photovoltaics has caught on globally in the last one to two years.

“We are seeing developments in Japan, China, Europe, the Americas as well, Australia and even India. What this means is that it is highly exportable know-how, highly exportable sector that we want to grow and we are seeing that though the strong interest by various companies wanting to participate in the floating photovoltaics testbed in Singapore.”

Eight companies are involved in the testbed, including large corporations from countries such as Japan and Italy and local small- and medium-sized enterprises.

“The starting point is that we want them to establish their business hubs in Singapore after which then they will export the know-how from Singapore, from doing the innovation right in Singapore,” Mr Goh said.

The one-hectare testbed was supposed to be operational by 2013, but national water agency PUB said it now hopes to feed power from the pilot into the national energy grid by end-2016.

PUB Chief Sustainability Officer Tan Nguan Sen attributed the delay to the “steep learning curve” of a new project.

The challenges, he said, included how to design the floating system so that the parts do not get washed away, and how to feed electricity to the substation.

The 10 systems will be monitored for at least six months before two of them will be chosen to be tested on a larger scale in the second phase of the pilot. The first phase of testing will run concurrently for at least three to six years, according to authorities.

PUB previously announced that it will be testing three areas for the solar systems: The rate of evaporation of water in the reservoir, the quality of the reservoir water and the impact of the panels on wildlife as it limits sunlight from entering the water body.

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