SINGAPORE - By 2023, Pulau Ubin's main village could have up to 90 per cent of its energy needs powered by the sun, thanks to an upgraded power grid.
The upgraded grid was among the enhancements to Pulau Ubin that Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong announced on Saturday morning (June 25) at the annual Ubin Day event.
Mr Tong also said that personal alert buttons have been installed in the homes of elderly villagers by the National Parks Board (NParks) and GovTech, under a trial. This allows seniors to quickly call for assistance in emergency situations.
He said fire hydrants and hose reels will also be installed in the island's main village, as well as at Kampong Sungei Durian and Ubin Living Lab (a facility for field studies and environmental education) to strengthen the island's fire management response.
Previously, all households were given fire extinguishers as part of a larger initiative to improve facilities on the island.
Mr Tong was joined at the event by National Development Minister Desmond Lee and NParks chief executive Kenneth Er. NParks is the central managing agency of Pulau Ubin.
The Pulau Ubin Micro-grid was launched by the Energy Market Authority (EMA) in 2013 to provide more than 30 of the island's residents and businesses with a more reliable, cleaner and affordable electricity supply than diesel-powered generators.
EMA's Industry Development Department director Jeanette Lim told The Straits Times that when the grid was launched, about 15 per cent of the daily electricity demand was supplied through solar energy, while the remainder was supplied by diesel-powered generators connected to the grid.
Besides making the grid's energy supply cleaner, EMA said on Saturday that NParks will be extending the grid's coverage beyond the island's main village to Kampong Sungei Durian, where 13 households will benefit.
"This will help address the villagers' request for a cleaner and more reliable electricity supply and raise their quality of life," said the authorities.
The grid is operated by EDPR Sunseap APAC. Ms Lim said those who consume energy from the grid pay a fixed rate of $0.80/kWh, which is lower than the cost of operating their own diesel generators, which was about $1.20/kWh.
To optimise the grid's solar photovoltaic (PV) system's output, its operators will add plants next to solar panels to create a "solar green roof". This reduces the ambient temperature of solar PV systems by 3 deg C to 8 deg C, increasing its efficiency by 1.5 per cent to 4 per cent.
An energy storage system will also be deployed to help improve the reliability of the grid.
A provision shop owner in the island’s main village, Madam Ng Ngak Heng, said on Saturday that she started using the grid in 2014, she has not needed to use her own diesel-powered generator, which has reduced noise and smoke pollution.
While the 72-year-old, who has lived on Pulau Ubin for the past 47 years, said purchasing electricity from the grid has been more expensive than using generators in her experience, she appreciates the convenience of no longer needing to fill up and operate the generator, which can be a laborious process.
Meanwhile, Ms Ong Ah Sam, 84, who lives in one of five houses where the personal alert buttons have been installed, said being able to call for help easily gives her peace of mind.
“It’s easy to use and more fuss-free than picking up a phone and then looking for a number,” she said of the buttons, which are installed at about waist-height and will allow her to call for help with a push of the button.
On Saturday, Mr Tong also gave updates about species recovery and habitat enhancement efforts NParks has undertaken over past years.
For instance, since the development of nesting sites for the blue-throated bee-eater, a species under NParks Species Recovery Programme, NParks has recorded 21 nesting occurrences.
Monitoring of the current breeding season is still ongoing.
Meanwhile, the enhancement of Pekan Quarry with floating wetlands has successfully increased the area of usable wildlife habitat for birds, leading to more sightings of herons, kingfishers and waterhens in the area.
A first breeding of the lesser whistling duck at Pekan Quarry was also recorded this year.
"It was only last year that we first spotted a pair of them using the floating wetlands and floating logs to roost," said Mr Tong. "Now the two ducks have grown their own family."