Singapore has taken its first steps toward potentially another viable source of renewable energy, with its first tidal turbine system sited just off Sentosa.
The 1kW testbed, the first such light, low-flow system in the tropics, was designed and constructed by Nanyang Technological University's Energy Research Institute.
Tidal energy has conventionally only been generated in temperate regions such as the United Kingdom and the United States, where tidal flows are more powerful. It is generally considered a more predictable energy source than solar or wind.
The research institute has plans to test more tidal turbines in Singapore's southern waters within the coming three to five years, for example near St. John's Island, Pulau Sebarok, and Pulau Semakau. The tidal mapping that it has done shows that tidal flows in these areas are powerful enough to propel the turbines, said research fellow Dr Michael Abundo.
Based on its assessments, the southern waters could have 150 to 200 tidal turbine systems within 15 years generating some 200MW of power for the country, enough to power 5,000 HDB flats. These would have to be located in areas with little maritime traffic.
But the Energy Market Authority has said that marine renewable energy is limited here as a lot of sea space is used for ports, anchorage and shipping lanes.
About 80 per cent of Singapore's energy needs today are met by natural gas. The country is also ramping up its use of solar energy, the only renewable energy source currently connected to the national grid.