PUB powers up with solar energy

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan on a tour of Choa Chu Kang Waterworks yesterday. With him was Mr Albert Lim, managing director of SolarGy, which installed the solar panels.
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan on a tour of Choa Chu Kang Waterworks yesterday. With him was Mr Albert Lim, managing director of SolarGy, which installed the solar panels.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Solar panels at water treatment plant cut carbon dioxide emissions

NATIONAL water agency PUB's Choa Chu Kang water treatment facility is now partly run by solar energy from more than 3,300 solar panels, which will cut its carbon dioxide emissions by some 500 tonnes every year.

The energy will be used to power a portion of the plant's lighting, air-conditioning and water treatment operations, amounting to 7 per cent of its average daily energy consumption.

Spanning about 6,700 sq m, the panels can generate the equivalent of the annual energy consumption of about 250 Housing Board households.

The installation of the solar panels was done under a 20-year power purchase agreement, under which the $2.3 million cost of installation was borne by the supplier, RCS Engineering, and sub- contractor SolarGy. PUB had to pay only for the solar energy subsequently generated.

During a tour of the Choa Chu Kang Waterworks yesterday, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said with the fall in prices of solar panels, solar energy is now in fact cheaper to use than energy from the grid, which is supplied here mainly from natural gas.

"The beauty about the current project is that there has been no capital cost to PUB up front and we literally save money from Day 1," he said. He said PUB will roll out solar photovoltaic (PV) cells at its facilities on land and water in the next few years. The goal is to cut the amount of imported energy for the production of water by half, using PV systems and bio-gas converted from used water. Its only other solar project now is at Marina Barrage, which supplements daytime electricity for offices there, and the Sustainable Singapore Gallery.

PUB chief sustainability officer Tan Nguan Sen said considerations to be made before a building is singled out for the installation of a solar PV system include whether there is enough space, whether the roof structure is strong enough and whether the building is new enough so that it will not be rebuilt in the next 20 years.

The next facilities to have PV systems will be its Changi Water Reclamation Plant, the Bedok Waterworks treatment plant and Waterhub, a PUB training centre.

PUB's efforts are part of a government push to harness solar power. At the end of the first quarter of this year, total installed capacity of solar PVs was 33.8 megawatt-peak (MWp), up from 18.7 MWp a year ago, according to Energy Market Authority data.

samboh@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2015, with the headline 'PUB powers up with solar energy'. Print Edition | Subscribe