Punggol steps closer to being net zero energy town

Channel NewsAsia 24 Jan 13;

SINGAPORE: Another 80 HDB residential blocks in Punggol Eco-Town will be solar powered.

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) has awarded a tender to lease three mega-watt-peak solar photovoltaic (PV) systems for the blocks.

The tender attracted keen competition from the industry, with a total of 13 bidders, compared to the first Solar Leasing project in 2011 which only garnered three bids.

Under the tender, solar system developer Sunseap will design, finance, install, operate and maintain the solar PV systems.

Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council will have a service agreement with Sunseap to pay for the solar power generated and used, at a preferential rate of up to 5 per cent discount off the retail electricity tariff rate.

Installation works are scheduled to be completed by 2014.

HDB is currently the largest stakeholder in the installation of solar PV system in Singapore.

To date, HDB has committed a total of S$15 million for the installation of solar PV systems for 175 blocks of flats. This is equivalent to powering the energy needs of 1,800 4-room flats for a year.

With the second solar leasing project, HDB has moved a step closer to the aim of developing Punggol Eco-Town as a net zero energy town by 2016.

Dr Cheong Koon Hean, HDB's chief executive officer, said: "Punggol, as Singapore's first eco-town, serves as a 'living laboratory' to test new ideas and technologies in sustainable development.

"The expansion of our solar PV installations through solar leasing is in line with the second thrust of HDB's 'Roadmap for Better Living' -- to develop sustainable towns.

"Solar technology has been given an extra boost with our largest tender ever under the Solar Capability Building Programme which aims to test-bed solar PV technology in 200 public housing blocks by 2015.

"The scheme will help enhance the industry's capabilities and test the feasibility of implementing solar technology on a wider scale when it becomes more cost effective."

In a blog post, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said Singapore, being in the tropics, should potentially be a great user of solar energy.

He said although solar energy technology is still expensive, the economics are getting better every day.

Mr Khaw added that people should experiment, with the government providing financial incentives to help spawn more pilots.

- CNA/al

More Punggol flats to go solar
Another 80 HDB blocks will use sunlight to power common facilities
Daryl Chin Straits Times 25 Jan 13;

SOLAR panels will be installed in another 80 Housing Board blocks in eco-town Punggol to harness energy to power services in common areas.

Facilities such as lifts, lights in corridors and staircases and water pumps will use the energy, the HDB said yesterday.

This will take the town a step closer towards relying entirely on solar power for common services by 2016, it added.

Commenting on his blog, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that while solar energy is still more expensive than energy produced from oil or gas, that should not deter efforts to go green.

He noted that the greater use of solar technology has been fuelled in part by the falling cost of solar photovoltaic cells.

The costs have dropped some 60 per cent since HDB first tested using solar panels on the top of HDB blocks in Serangoon North and Sembawang in 2008.

"As solar panels improve on their efficiency and their cost of production drops, the economics of solar energy is getting better every day," he said.

To encourage more companies to bid to set up the solar panels, the HDB offsets up to 30 per cent of the start-up costs.

The firm that won the 20-year contract sells the energy tapped to Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council at up to 5 per cent off the retail electricity tariff rate.

Mr Khaw believes that this leasing arrangement would enable more flats to benefit from the technology.

The HDB said the initial capital outlay from the Government acts as an incentive, as contractors bidding for the project can take about 20 years before they recover operational costs.

The cost of the system in the latest tender is $8.84 million, of which the HDB will foot $645,000. In a previous tender in 2011, also in Punggol, the winning bid was $10.9 million for a less advanced system that covered 45 blocks. The Housing Board put up $3.28 million. Solar developer Sunseap won both bids.

HDB chief executive Cheong Koon Hean said the latest move is in line with its vision to create sustainable towns.

National University of Singapore researcher Kua Harn Wei said that while investing in greener gadgets and equipment is a must, society should not forget that it is also about "sustainable consumption".

Small things, like switching on the lights only when necessary, can help.

To date, the HDB has committed a total of $15million to install solar systems for 175 blocks of flats. The energy harnessed is enough to meet the needs of 1,800 four-room flats for a year.

The aim is to test-bed such technology in 200 public housing blocks by 2015.

Said Punggol resident Eric Tong, 33, a businessman: "It's great that my town is going greener, but of course it will be better when conservancy charges also fall."

Solar energy to light up more HDB blocks
Developer wins tender to maintain, operate photovoltaic systems in Punggol Eco-Town
Then Ai Ping Today Online 25 Jan 13;

SINGAPORE — Eighty more blocks of public housing in Punggol Eco-Town will be powered by solar energy by next year, as solar power — once considered too expensive for widespread use — becomes an “increasingly viable” energy solution, said the Housing and Development Board (HDB).

The HDB announced yesterday that it had awarded a tender to solar system developer Sunseap to lease three mega-watt-peak (MWp) solar photovoltaic (PV) systems for these HDB blocks.

The power generated will power common areas such as lifts and corridors, as well as staircase lighting and water pumps.

The tender attracted “keen competition”, with 13 bidders compared to the first solar leasing project in 2011 which only had three bids, said the HDB.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in a blog post yesterday that, while solar energy was not yet cheaper than energy produced from oil or gas, the economics were “getting better every day”.

“We should not wait until the economics is fully proven,” he said. “We should experiment, pilot and acquire the necessary experience while the scientists work hard in the research lab.”

Since the HDB first tested solar PV systems in 2008, global prices of solar PV cells have fallen rapidly. “When we started in 2008, the price of a solar panel was S$5.17/Wp. It has since dropped by 60 per cent,” he said.

Solar leasing from the private sector — where the HDB offsets a portion of the company’s start-up costs and the company takes care of the subsequent operational and maintenance costs — has also allowed residents to enjoy a lower electricity tariff. This way, the HDB need not procure and install the PV systems and town councils need not maintain them.

“For example, in the recent solar leasing project, the Pasir Ris-Punggol (Town Council) gets up to 5 per cent discount off the retail electricity tariff rate for the solar energy generated,” Mr Khaw said.

The initial capital outlay offered by the Government under the solar leasing model is “necessary” as the current payback for solar remains long at about 20 years. However, outlay remains low due to the increased competition in the local market and cheaper prices of solar PV cells globally, the HDB said.

In the latest tender, the cost for a 3 MWp system is S$8.84 million and the system cost payable by the HDB is about S$645,000. In comparison, the cost for a 2 MWp system in the first tender was S$10.9 million, with the HDB paying S$3.28 million up front.

More than 100 HDB blocks have been fitted with solar PV systems in the last five years and the HDB aims to reach 200 blocks by 2015.

To date, it has committed S$15 million to install solar PV systems for 175 blocks.

Related links
Cheaper, cleaner, greener by Minister Khaw Boon Wan

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