Fighting for solar power in a concrete jungle – cnet gas city indiana zip code


While solar may seem like a wistful dream in the land-scarce island, Singapore’s Energy Market Authority has set a target to generate 1 gigawatt peak (GWp) beyond 2020, which it says will be sufficient to power 200,000 four-room flats annually.

With a population density that ranks third in the world — ahead of Hong Kong even — Singapore relies on affordable and uniform-looking public housing to cater to its masses. Unlike the unique skyscrapers in the central business districts, these buildings sport flat rooftops, ideal for installation of solar panels.

In 2010, the housing board implemented a five-year S$31 million (about US$23 million, £17 million or AU$30 million converted) drive for panel installation, which has since seen over 1,898 installations islandwide. It may not seem like much, but these installations generate about 143 megawatt peak (MWp) of electricity, enough for around 28,600 homes.

These installations aren’t done by the government. Instead it’s solar startups, such as Sunseap, that fork out the cash to lease out space on rooftops and install their panels. Currently the startup generates about 100 MW daily that it pumps back into the energy grid. With panels expecting to last for 25 to 30 years, the company is in for the long haul, and generates revenue by selling energy credits to eco-conscious companies, such as Apple and Microsoft.

Globally, Apple is already 100 percent powered by renewable energy in the 43 countries where it has facilities. In Singapore, it draws on Sunseap’s supply as well as power from its own building, which it claims is one of the largest solar installations in the island state, to power both its offices and its Apple Store.

In Microsoft’s case, the company is committing to purchase about 60 MWp of power from Sunseap for the next 20 years. Announced earlier this year, the energy agreement marks Microsoft’s first renewable energy deal in Asia and will be used to power its data centers locally.

With land space a premium in Singapore, the government is looking to take advantage of its 17 sizable water reservoirs as an alternative location for solar panels. The Public Utilities Board (PUB) is currently trialing floating solar platforms, and results so far have been promising, with systems performing 5 percent to 15 percent better than a typical rooftop system due to the cooler temperatures of the reservoir environment.

If the trials are successful, it’s not unlikely that more such platforms will be deployed, eventually possibly blanketing the reservoirs with panels. While it might seem like a bad idea to introduce foreign material to a water supply, PUB claims that tests so far show no contamination of the water. Not the ideal weather

Even as the country finds space for its solar ambitions, Singapore also has to figure out how to tackle a problem stemming from its location near the equator — cloud cover and tropical storms. Contrary to popular belief, despite having around 12 hours of sunlight a day, Singapore’s effective solar irradiance is only about 3.5 hours daily.

The Energy Market Authority recently awarded US$4.6 million grant for solar forecasting, a process of understanding the sun’s movement and how much power is being generated to the grid, which will allow fossil fuel energy producers to regulate output and cut down on production when electricity from solar panels flood the grid.

Besides backing rooftop and floating platforms, the EMA is making it easier for companies and consumers to invest in solar — companies will find it easier to sell excess power back to the grid, and consumers will find less red tape to deal with when registering to install their own solar panels.