'Energy islands' among new solar energy projects launched

Samantha Boh Straits Times 5 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE - Singapore, a sunny island set in the sea as a song goes, may soon have "energy islands" made up of solar panels floating in the sea.

These "islands" will supply electricity to nearby industrial zones or living areas, under a project by the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (Seris) housed at the National University of Singapore.

It is one of three projects launched on Thursday (April 5) as Seris marks its 10th anniversary at an event at the NUS Shaw Foundation Alumni House.

The "energy islands" project comes as the Government looks to expand the world's largest floating photovoltaics (PV) testbed at Tengeh Reservoir - run by Seris, PUB and the Economic Development Board - to other reservoirs in the next few years.

In another project, Seris will work on developing more efficient solar cells with Nanyang Technological University and the National Research Foundation's Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise. The aim is for the cells to convert 30 per cent of the sunlight it absorbs into energy - surpassing the current world record efficiency of 26.6 per cent.

As for its third project, the institute is looking to develop cheaper and more efficient solar panels that can be integrated into buildings to overcome land constraints.

In a statement congratulating Seris on its 10th anniversary, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean noted that solar energy is presently the best alternative energy option for Singapore, in terms of economic and technical viability.

For instance, the costs of solar energy have been reduced by about 85 per cent in the last decade, and are now competitive with fossil fuel-based power in many countries, including Singapore.

By 2020, Singapore aims to put in place enough solar PV systems to supply 350MWp of electricity - about 5 per cent of projected peak electricity demand here.

Mr Teo said there is a global shift towards renewable energy and Singapore is in a good position to trial cleantech solutions, which can be scaled for other cities in the Asia-Pacific, particularly as they seek options to tackle energy and sustainability challenges.

He said research initiatives and supporting services have helped to anchor a new ecosystem of more than 100 clean energy companies here, an effort that Seris has played a large role in.

With several breakthroughs under its belt, research funds flowing and an elite team of researchers, the Seris has had a good run this past decade, said Seris’ chief, Professor Armin Aberle.

Today, it has a team of 220, including scientists, engineers and technicians. It has also groomed 110 PhD students, of whom 52 have graduated and join the solar power industry.

Seris has also garnered $30 million in funds from the industry over the last decade.

Among its breakthroughs is a real-time monitoring system with high reliability and availability. The monitoring system provides the backbone for the well-known "Live irradiance map of Singapore", which provides data that can be used to develop ways to overcome the intermittency of solar energy, due to factors like cloud cover.

The institute is also a forerunner in developing new solar panels, including the TwinPeak panels, which have at least 7 per cent more power than standard panels.

The future for solar technologies is bright, said Prof Aberle.

Solar energy is progressing rapidly and expected to gain an increasing share of the power generation mix.

"This in turn will help Singapore to achieve its carbon emission targets, and at the same time will provide a clean, green and healthy environment for future generations," he said.

Singapore's solar capabilities to be strengthened through 3 new research projects
Gwyneth Teo Channel NewsAsia 5 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE: Three flagship research and development projects, aimed at diversifying the industrial uses of solar power, are set to be spearheaded by the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) in its efforts to propel Singapore in the sector.

SERIS CEO Professor Armin Aberle announced this on Thursday (Apr 5) during the institute's 10th anniversary celebration.

Housed in the National University of Singapore (NUS), the institute was founded in 2008 as a government initiative to stimulate the establishment of clean technology as a future pillar of the economy.

To achieve its aim, the institute has planned three new flagship R&D projects for its next decade of research into clean technology.

For the first project, SERIS will collaborate with Nanyang Technological University and the Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise to develop a 30 per cent efficient thin-film-on-silicon tandem solar cell.

Such a solar cell will improve the current practical efficiency of silicon solar cells, which is limited to around 28 per cent under natural sunlight.

The second project will aim to develop photovoltaic modules (or solar panels) that can be integrated on building surfaces apart from roofs, such as the facade.

SERIS will be working on making the photovoltaic modules lightweight, highly efficient and low cost.

According to the institute, the success of the project will open up commercial opportunities and export potential.

Meanwhile, the third project will look to expand the institute's current achievements in "floating solar" and develop a multi-purpose floating system of photovoltaic modules that will be suitable for off-shore use.

This could lead to the development of "energy islands" which would supply energy to nearby industrial zones or residential areas.

SERIS currently operates the world's largest such testbed at Tengeh Reservoir. It is also writing the world's first guidebook on floating solar, commissioned by the World Bank.

In the past ten years, more than 80 solar companies have set up shop in Singapore.

A S$2.5 billion factory in Tuas generates 1.5 per cent of global production, producing as many solar panels each year as there are inhabitants in Singapore.

Last year, solar energy accounted for more than 40 per cent of new installed energy capacity globally - the top contributor for the first time.

NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye said the university aims to help Singapore achieve greater sustainability.

"In this endeavour, SERIS plays a key role by developing novel technology solutions to make the harnessing of solar power more efficient and economical, as well as working closely with public and private sector partners to address the challenges of optimising solar power systems to local conditions."

Source: CNA/ad