Siting solar energy farms at reservoirs

The floating solar PV system test bed launched at Tengeh Reservoir last October. It has been shown to perform better than its rooftop counterparts, because of cooler temperatures in its surrounding environment.
The floating solar PV system test bed launched at Tengeh Reservoir last October. It has been shown to perform better than its rooftop counterparts, because of cooler temperatures in its surrounding environment.ST FILE PHOTO

PUB calling for tenders to study impact on habitats at Tengeh, Upper Peirce reservoirs

Reservoirs could soon play host to floating solar energy farms, national water agency PUB announced in a press statement yesterday.

It said it was planning to explore the implementation of floating solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in reservoirs to utilise their vast surface areas.

It is calling for tenders for engineering and environmental studies for such systems in Tengeh Reservoir and Upper Peirce Reservoir.

Solar energy, which is renewable, reduces Singapore's reliance on fossil fuels and is in line with national climate-change mitigation pledges.

While most solar panels are deployed on land or rooftops, the use of water bodies is beneficial for land-scarce places like Singapore.

A floating solar PV system test bed was launched at Tengeh Reservoir in October last year. It has been shown to perform better than its rooftop counterparts, because of cooler temperatures in its surrounding environment.

Water quality and wildlife were not affected, said PUB.

Potentially, the energy generated could power about 12,500 four-room Housing Board homes.

PUB has consulted environmental groups and will carry out environmental studies at the two reservoirs before making any decision on implementation.

"PUB will continue to study the feasibility of adopting clean energy in our installations. This will help us reduce our dependence on grid energy and carbon footprint. But the lack of deployable land space puts a limit on what we can reap from this clean energy," said PUB chief sustainability officer Tan Nguan Sen.

"The natural option is our vast water surface, but we want to study the possible impact and mitigating measures carefully before reaching a decision to proceed with large-scale floating solar PV deployment."

Conservationist Tony O'Dempsey said he applauds PUB's efforts to include environmental impact assessments in the project and for engaging nature groups. "Of course, our greatest concern is for the Upper Peirce Reservoir site, as the introduction of infrastructure into or adjacent to the (Central Catchment Nature Reserve next door) has the potential to impact natural habitats.

"I think we should be looking at other reservoirs as alternatives. The Lower Seletar Waterworks off Seletar West Link is also a potential beneficiary of direct connection to solar panels that could be deployed in Lower Seletar Reservoir. Other reservoirs may also offer similar possibilities as alternatives."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2017, with the headline 'Siting solar energy farms at reservoirs'. Print Edition | Subscribe