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Sustainability

Greener system of cooling buildings may be set up in Tampines, paving the way for more eco-friendly towns

  • Plans in the pipeline to set up a district cooling network in Tampines central
  • Several building owners have pledged their interest in subscribing to the network
  • A feasibility study last year found that implementing such a system can reduce energy consumption, costs and carbon emissions

SINGAPORE: Several buildings in Tampines central may soon be retrofitted with a cooling system that is more energy efficient, after a feasibility study found that it could lead to a 17 per cent reduction in electricity consumption.

Known as distributed district cooling, the proposed network for Tampines involves having the existing cooling systems of selected buildings produce chilled water to serve the building and others around it.

The buildings will all be interconnected via insulated pipes that can distribute and circulate the chilled water in a closed loop.

In the study conducted by Temasek and SP Group, 14 buildings in Tampines central were involved, including retail malls, commercial and public offices, data centres and a community sports hub.

On Thursday (Aug 19), the owners of seven of those buildings, including CapitaLand and Frasers Property, signed letters of intent with SP to pledge their interest in subscribing to the distributed district cooling network.

“I am hopeful that the adoption of this green cooling solution will bring Tampines closer to our ambition to be an Eco Town by 2025 and pave the way for district cooling to be explored across other towns and built-up areas,” said the adviser to Tampines Grassroots Organisations Masagos Zulkifli, who is also Minister for Social and Family Development.

“Sustainable towns and districts are essential for Singapore to meet our sustainability goals under the Singapore Green Plan 2030.”

WHAT IS DISTRICT COOLING?

The proposed cooling network for Tampines differs from the usual district cooling systems in greenfield sites – or new developments planned from a clean slate – such as the upcoming Tengah precinct, where the systems are incorporated into the design of the new development.

In Tampines, where existing buildings already have their own chiller plant systems, a “distributed” district cooling network can be a “game changer”, said SP Group and Temasek in a joint media release.

A district cooling system can be likened to a giant air-conditioner that can cool an entire district of buildings rather than just individual ones. Chilled water is generated in a central cooling plant before being piped to various buildings through an underground network to provide air conditioning.

Warmer water is then circulated back to the cooling plant, so that they can be chilled again and redistributed to buildings.

One area that has implemented a district cooling system is Marina Bay. Designed and operated by SP, the underground system serves 16 developments in the area, including Marina Bay Sands, the Marina Bay Financial Centre, as well as One Raffles Quay.

By centralising the production of chilled water, about 25,000 sq m of prime land space was freed up for other uses, as buildings did not have to build their own chiller plant.

The upcoming Tengah precinct will also house Singapore’s first residential centralised cooling system.

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KEY FINDINGS FROM THE FEASIBILITY STUDY

On Thursday, Temasek and SP also released a white paper that consolidated key findings from the feasibility study that started last year on the 14 Tampines buildings.

The report outlined the economic and environmental benefits of having district cooling systems in existing developments as well as the challenges in setting them up.

Among the findings, the study found that implementing such a system could lead to a 17 per cent reduction in energy consumption and significant cost savings.

It estimated that S$4.3 million can be saved annually due to lower energy consumption, reduction in equipment replacement and maintenance costs, as well as potential earnings from freeing up chiller plant space which can be converted into retail or office space.

Reductions in energy usage and the amount of refrigerant used to cool buildings can also result in an 18 per cent cut in carbon emissions.

However, rolling out such a system in an area that has already been developed is not without challenges.

The district cooling system provider will have to navigate the existing built environment and may face several constraints such as having to minimise disruptions to existing operations in order to implement the system.

Given these challenges, Temasek and SP said the white paper can serve as a “useful blueprint” for other districts looking to reduce their energy consumption from cooling, as Singapore looks for solutions to address the climate emergency, they said.

Providers can also work with the building owners to optimise and incorporate district cooling considerations right from the design stage of the projects.

WHAT’S NEXT?

SP said it will work closely with the building owners to factor in their considerations in the commercial terms of the supply agreement.

During the installation and retrofitting period, the group said it will also engage relevant government agencies on ways to lay the chilled water pipes in order to optimise resources while minimising inconvenience to the public.

Meanwhile, discussions with the other building owners who supported the study are continuing, Temasek and SP said.

Both parties will work together to launch the first phase of the network in Tampines.

If the distributed district cooling network is installed in Tampines central, SP said it could also be extended to nearby HDB blocks in future.

The group added, however, that it is important to ensure that the base operations are stable before looking into the possibility of extending the network into residential areas.

Opportunities to scale brownfield district cooling systems in other parts of Singapore will also be explored.

Source: CNA/vl

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