Semakau landfill to get green power grid

Feng Zengkun, David Ee The Straits Times AsiaOne 31 Oct 14;

The world's prettiest landfill will soon become greener.

Singapore will start building a power grid at the lush Semakau Landfill next year, to show how renewable energy from the sea, sun and wind can be combined with other technologies to provide a stable source of electricity.
The hybrid micro-grid is the first in the region and is believed to be the largest in the tropics.

It will produce about 1MW of power for a start, which will be used on Semakau. That amount of power is enough for small islands and villages, and can act as an emergency power supply for cities.

In Singapore, it would be enough to power about 250 four-room Housing Board flats.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office S. Iswaran announced the project yesterday at the opening of the inaugural Asia Clean Energy Summit, which is part of this year's Singapore International Energy Week.

He said the project could allow Singapore and its partners to provide electricity to island communities and remote villages. The research could also be used to improve cities' power grids.

"All of these are acute needs in Asia... and Singapore aims to play a meaningful role in Asia's clean- energy journey despite our geographical limitations," said Mr Iswaran, who is also Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry.

The Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) will invest a total of $8 million in the grid infrastructure, and the project is expected to attract some $20 million in investments from clean-technology companies in the next five years.

NTU will build the grid and develop the technologies with 10 multinational companies, for a start. These include some of the world's biggest renewable-energy players, such as Vestas, the world's largest manufacturer and installer of wind turbines.

The National Environment Agency and the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore will also support the project.

The grid will use energy storage systems and algorithms to tackle renewable energy's traditional limitations. Sunlight is needed to produce solar power, for instance, but storage systems can store the power for later use.

Professor Hans Puttgen, senior director at NTU's Energy Research Institute, said that a key research area will be technology that converts power to fuel.

One method uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

The hydrogen is combined with carbon dioxide, and the two gases are converted to methane, which is then fed into a natural gas power grid. This also helps to reduce carbon dioxide's impact on the environment.

EDB executive director of clean technologies Goh Chee Kiong said such power-to-gas technology "is a very exciting frontier for a lot of major companies today", and that the Singapore project could catalyse research here in the field.

Prof Puttgen said that the work will evolve as new technologies and partners come on board.

"It will never be finished, and it has been designed to be that way," he said.

S'pore powers towards energy target with new solar project

Singapore is on track to start projects by the end of next year to produce five to six times more energy from the sun, as the Government chases its target of having solar power meet about 5 per cent of electricity demand by 2020.

These projects will add 80 to 100 more megawatts-peak (MWp) of solar power, revealed Building and Construction Authority chief executive John Keung yesterday.

On top of the current capacity of nearly 20MWp, the nation would be roughly a third of the way towards its goal of 350MWp.

Part of the new boost in tapping the sun's energy comes from the Housing Board.

HDB has closed its tender for a 20MWp solar leasing project, which will see solar panels placed on the rooftops of 500 more HDB blocks, enough to power more than 4,000 four-room flats.

It is a significant jump from the 176 HDB blocks with solar panels as of August.

By 2020, HDB will contribute 220MWp of solar power with panels at 5,500 blocks.

There are also plans to install solar panels in army camps and in schools.

"In Singapore, the solar-power adoption movement is gaining strong momentum, driven by the competitive costs of solar energy and pervasive sustainability practices," said Dr Keung at the Solar Pioneer Awards, which are part of the Singapore International Energy Week that ends on Friday.

Such growth can be seen in this year's award winners. While past winning projects were in the range of 1MWp, this year's honourees had much larger system sizes, he noted.

He added that the solar energy market's centre of gravity has shifted from the West to Asia. "Consequently, we are seeing many global solar companies increasing their focus on Asia, which includes markets in China, Japan, India and South-east Asia," he said.

Meanwhile, a solar research institute based in the National University of Singapore (NUS) will be testing a unique Swiss-made white solar panel unveiled in Singapore yesterday.

A world first made possible by applying a coat of nanomaterials to solar panels while still maintaining a workable efficiency, it is a dramatic departure from the standard blue-black colour intended to maximise sunlight absorption.

Its creators at private Swiss research centre CSEM hope this will pave the way for using more visually appealing solar panels in a variety of colours on entire building facades rather than just on rooftops.

The Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore at NUS will test these panels for at least six months to see if they are suitable for Singapore's climate.

CSEM selected Singapore for the panel's unveiling as it hopes to market it in Asia, said the director of CSEM's Photovoltaics Centre, Professor Christophe Ballif.

"If we are serious about using more renewable energy, we should make buildings net energy producers," he said.

"One day, we should really consider that buildings be covered entirely with photovoltaic panels."