SINGAPORE: A clean energy pilot programme at Pulau Ubin is now into its second phase, and the Energy Market Authority has awarded S$5 million to two projects.
ATEN Pte Ltd and Power Automation Pte Ltd will test energy storage and Berkeley Education Alliance for Research in Singapore (BEARS) will carry out real-time monitoring of the micro-grid’s performance.
They will leverage the existing micro-grid's infrastructure to better understand how energy can be stored in Singapore's hot and humid environment, as well as develop a sensor system which can monitor the micro-grid's performance in real-time.
Residents and businesses on Pulau Ubin do not draw electricity from Singapore's main power grid, as laying transmission cables from the mainland is an expensive endeavour due to the low demand. Instead, they rely on diesel power generators.
Solar panels on an existing building which houses generators. (Photo: Chan Luo Er)
Some tasks would be more labour-intensive without electricity, such as cleaning bicycles.
Comfort Bicycle Rental and Trading, a bicycle shop on Pulau Ubin, used to rely on its own diesel-powered generator. However, the generator broke down three to four times a year, and it cost between S$300 and S$400 to fix.
Two years after coming on board the pilot programme, the shop said it no longer worries about a power outage, and has also seen a more than 50 per cent decrease in its electricity bill.
Previously, Ms Koh Bee Choo, the manager of the shop, paid S$810 a month to run her own generator. This includes the cost of diesel and the cost of chartering a ferry to bring it over to the island. Ms Koh now pays about S$300 a month for electricity.
“It's very stable now. We've got no problems so we are very happy about it. It is so convenient to have electricity running for 24 hours. We don't worry about the generator, repair or any maintenance,” said Ms Koh.
A major user of electricity on the island is the Pulau Ubin Fo Shan Ting Da Bo Gong Temple, which thousands of devotees visit each year. It requires its lights to be switched on 24 hours a day, and it also requires power for electronic devices.
While its electricity bill has not gone down much as it used to share a generator with other residents, the temple said the biggest benefit of being part of the test bed is the silence it affords.
“Last time, we used the generator. So when it’s switched on at night, the sound can be quite loud,” said Mdm Doreen Lim Woon Chern, the temple's community secretary.
“At the beginning, there were some very, very minor problems. Sometimes there would be power trips or a black out, but that happened in the beginning and it was resolved very fast.”
WHAT'S IN STORE
Phase Two will look at at how the energy can be better stored. Currently, lead batteries are used as they are a reliable option. But one company is testing a battery which will generate a smaller carbon footprint.
Three different types of batteries – Sodium-ion, Lithium-ion and Zinc–air – will be tested. ATEN said it is looking to pinpoint one that will better withstand Singapore's humidity and with a higher efficiency rate.
Said ATEN Executive Director Stanley Seah: “It may take less time to charge up the battery instead of the conventional type, and also, (with) the space it uses, you can store more batteries (compared with) the usual type."
ATEN said Government test beds have another benefit. It allows small- and medium-sized enterprises, like them, the opportunity to test systems which they do not have the resources for.
MONITORING THE GRID
Another aspect of the pilot programme looks into the monitoring of the grid.
The micro-grid's electricity distribution points also houses sensors which monitors the grid. As part of phase two, new sensors have been added, while squares will act as antennas to transmit information to the mainland.
An electricity distribution point, with added anteanas for new sensors housed in the box. (Photo: Chan Luo Er)
Currently, the grid can only be monitored on the island itself.
By mid-2016, all enhancements to the micro-grid will be made and a review of the results of Phase Two is expected by end 2017.