New lab to test, develop solar panels

Today Online 19 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE — Against growing global demand for solar energy, the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) has opened a new facility to develop and test new solar panels under one roof.

The S$6 million facility, described by SERIS — which is part of the National University of Singapore — as the only one of its kind in South-east Asia, could also allow for more solar panels to be tested at once when the facility, which serves both the academic community and industry, acquires new equipment in the future.

The opening of the 1,700sqm facility yesterday comes as the total installed capacity of grid-connected solar photovoltaic modules rose from 0.4 megawatt-peak (MWp) in 2008 to 18.1MWp in Singapore as of the first quarter of this year, according to Energy Market Authority figures.

The space brings together existing facilities, which will save time, said SERIS deputy chief executive officer Thomas Reindl at the official opening yesterday. “You can basically make a (solar) module in the morning, torture it in the late afternoon, (and) you would find out whether the idea that you had in the morning was good or not,” Dr Reindl said.

At the lab, solar panels are subject to “torture” to assess their durability in a tropical climate. This includes shining UV light on it or immersing it in moist tropical air. Solar panels are required to last more than 20 years, he said. The lab will also facilitate the research and development of the pilot production of panels with innovative designs.

Dr Reindl added that by establishing Singapore as a global test centre, Singapore will attract many industry players to establish their regional headquarters here, bringing with them revenue for the country.

New solar lab shines in tropical research
Grace Chua The Straits Times AsiaOne 21 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE - The Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (Seris) yesterday opened the only full-scale facility that can test and develop solar modules in South-east Asia, and showed off a system adapted for Singapore's climate.

The $6 million, 1,700 sq m facility at CleanTech Park in Jurong, which serves both academic and industry clients, brings together existing facilities previously located elsewhere at the National University of Singapore and International Business Park.

Most other solar facilities are not in the tropics, so this one has the "natural advantage" of being able to conduct long-term outdoor tests of solar panels in such a climate, said Dr Thomas Reindl, deputy chief executive of Seris, the national institute for applied solar research.

Besides outdoor testing, the facility can produce full-size solar modules for research purposes; simulate full sun evenly across the surface of a panel to benchmark its performance; simulate various climate conditions; and test the mechanical loads that panels can withstand.

It will also enable more researchers to interact, and adds capacity to test more modules at the same time, he added.

Seris aims to make Singapore the global test centre for solar systems in the tropics, he said.

The main hurdle to solar power being used in South-east Asia is cost. In Singapore, the high price of electricity makes solar energy an attractive alternative, though the total installed capacity is a paltry 15 to 20 megawatts.

Already, solar makers here and from countries like Malaysia, component makers, and buyers have engaged its testing services.

Yesterday, Seris showed a new "Singapore module" adapted to its climate. Composed of solar cells encased in a tough glass frame, the model has waterproofing to withstand humidity, and textured glass that allows cells to soak in Singapore's diffuse light instead of smooth glass that would reflect too much.

Work on the module began in 2011. Dr Reindl said Seris is discussing commercialising the product with several companies.

Seris is evaluating proposals to float 10 solar systems each with 100-kilowatt peak ratings on Tengeh Reservoir by the end of this year.

It is developing a website to show the solar-energy potential of each rooftop in Singapore. This could be online by the second quarter of next year.