Testing solar panels for the tropics: Ngee Ann Polytechnic

Poly's new centre sets up solar test
Project to study which type of solar panel is best for tropics
Liaw Wy-Cin, Straits Times 13 Nov 08;

NGEE Ann Polytechnic has been fitted with some 100 solar panels of various forms and sizes to identify which type works best in the tropics.

These panels are part of a new million-dollar solar technology centre at the school's campus in Clementi Road which opened yesterday.

The centre, partly funded by the Economic Development Board, came under a $17 million programme to encourage research into technology that taps into renewable resources like the sun, wind and water.

The drive has already attracted at least four big-name global players in the solar energy field.

'Most of the data currently available are from studies done in places such as Europe, where humidity is low and the solar cells won't degrade so fast,' said the deputy director of the polytechnic's school of engineering, Ms Lim Geok Choo.

'The findings may not be the same here.'

One of the things the centre wants to study is how well solar cells made of a material known as thin film - considered cheap but not very efficient - will work in Singapore.

Said the engineering school's director Koh Wee Hiong: 'In half a year, we may find that thin film is the best material to use in Singapore, but no one has the evidence yet.

'So far, people know that thin film works best in an environment where there is no direct sunlight.'

Besides research and testing, the centre's solar panels also contribute a small amount of 'clean' energy to the national power grid, said Ms Lim. The 50 kilowatt-hours-a-day contribution is enough to power a household air-conditioner for two days.

About 20 per cent of the centre's energy needs can be powered by the sun as well.

The centre will also showcase projects by students in the school of engineering's new full-time diploma course in clean energy management.

The class is among six new courses the polytechnic is offering from next year. It is expected to meet the demand of the clean energy sector that is gaining ground here.

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