PUB studying possibility of installing solar panels at reservoirs

SINGAPORE - National water agency PUB is embarking on a nine-month feasibility study to assess the possibility of installing solar panels at its reservoirs and other facilities.

In a media release on Monday (Nov 23), it said that findings from the $338,000 study will determine the usable space for solar deployment, and guide PUB's future efforts in solar deployment.

For instance, the study will assess the extent to which solar panels can be installed and the solar yield achievable, before a business model and implementation plan are proposed.

"The reservoirs, with their open surface area, offer much potential for solar energy generation," PUB said. Ten reservoirs, namely Sarimbun, Murai, Poyan, Tengeh, Kranji, Pandan, Upper Peirce, Lower Pierce, Upper Seletar and Lower Seletar, have been identified for the study.

Besides reservoirs, PUB said, the study will also look into the solar deployment potential at land-based facilities such as waterworks and water reclamation plants.

The study will be conducted by a consortium led by WEnergy Global, with SMS Consulting Engineers and Progressive Engineering and Management as consortium members.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology - which converts energy from the sun into electricity - has been identified as a key renewable energy source that has high potential for large-scale deployment in Singapore.

Researchers from the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (Seris) have said that the sun could supply almost a third of Singapore's electricity, up from less than two per cent now, by 2050. But this hinges on factors such as the nation's ability to reduce its electricity demand and expand its solar PV capacity.

Currently, the Republic gets more than 90 per cent of its electricity from natural gas, the cleanest form of fossil fuel.

PUB's chief sustainability officer Tan Nguan Sen said: "With Singapore reaching a critical mass for solar installations coupled with the declining cost of solar technology, PUB wants to ride on this wave and explore how some of our reservoirs can support floating solar systems.

"Through this study, PUB is keen to explore how we can balance the installation of solar panels on water surface with other competing water activities at our reservoirs.

"Together with other solar energy projects PUB has embarked on, we are on track to diversifying our energy options from conventional, non-renewable fossil fuels, contributing to a smaller carbon footprint and promoting more sustainable use of energy resources."

PUB has already installed solar panels at its Choa Chu Kang Waterworks facility, and is now working with the Economic Development Board and Seris to test-bed a floating solar system at Tengeh Reservoir.

The latter includes an environmental study to measure the impact of such systems on reservoir evaporation, biodiversity and water quality. The panels are expected to be installed by 2016.

In addition, PUB is participating in the Housing Board's solar leasing tender, under the government-led solar lead demand programme, called SolarNova, to install solar PV systems at Changi Water Reclamation Plant, Bedok Waterworks and WaterHub by 2017. PUB had earlier also invested in solar energy with the Solar Park at Marina Barrage.

audreyt@sph.com.sg