SINGAPORE: Solar energy as an alternative source of power is taking off in Singapore, with the Government pushing to raise its adoption.
The vast majority of electricity consumed in Singapore currently comes from burning non-renewable fossil fuels. Only less than 1 per cent of it is contributed by solar energy. The aim is to raise this to up to 20 per cent by 2050, said to the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS).
However, land scarcity is an issue, and most solar panels are currently installed on rooftops.
National water agency PUB had announced on Monday (Nov 23) that it is studying the feasibility of harnessing the sun's energy at its reservoirs, as well as land-based facilities. This will be conducted by a consortium led by WEnergy Global.
"The aim is to reduce the fossil fuel dependency of the grid and replace that with the clean source, so that the carbon footprint of Singapore and the carbon footprint of an organisation, that is PUB, can be reduced," said Mr Atem Ramsundersingh, CEO of the consortium.
"We'll start with an inventory - a survey of all the sites, the buildings and the reservoirs of PUB,” he explained. “What we will do is to make sure that we understand the data, the technical aspects of both the buildings and the reservoirs to see what are the capacities of solar power systems that could be installed.
“Based on that, we will present a workplan on how we want to move in the coming months, furthering our technical analysis and financial economic analysis, and then we will make sure that we provide a timeline for PUB to implement the projects that meet PUB's criteria."
'ONLY SOURCE OF RENEWABLE ENERGY'
“Solar energy is the only source and option of renewable energy for Singapore,” added Dr Thomas Reindl, Deputy CEO of Seris. “Other forms like hydroelectric power, wind turbines and geothermal energy are not feasible because the country lacks the space and natural infrastructure like a major river system. Shifting from conventional power generation to a renewable-based energy system will have various advantages like cutting down on carbon dioxide emissions.”
Another push to switch to solar energy is cost.
"There's been dramatic reduction in the cost of solar modules and solar systems over the last five to eight years and now solar energy is cost competitive with conventional power, for the case of Singapore and in many other countries in the world,” said Dr Reindl. “This has led to the case that there are new business models coming up, so if you have a large rooftop, if you're the owner of a factory or a commercial facility and you want to become green, you don't have to use your own money and your own funds to install the system."
The business model is called solar leasing, where a solar company pays the installation and maintenance costs of solar panels. Building owners then pay the company for the electricity generated by the solar system.
One such company is Sunseap. It recently inked a deal with Apple to be the force behind the tech giant's move to go 100 per cent solar. In 2016, Apple's main campus and new retail store in Singapore will be powered by the surplus energy produced by Sunseap's solar panels.
The panels are installed on the roofs of about 800 buildings across Singapore, but the company acknowledged that even rooftops are becoming increasingly inaccessible.
Said the director of Sunseap Frank Phuan: "Solar is competing with other equipment on rooftops, so area is becoming more and more scarce. We are looking at other alternative areas, like for example, the facade of the building instead of rooftops and on water bodies. This is definitely something that the Government is proactively looking into. For us, it provides another channel of opportunities for solar companies like ours, to look at where we can generate this solar energy from."
PUB's study will span nine months. The agency said this puts it on track to diversify its energy options cut carbon footprints and promote sustainability.