Singapore's largest private microgrid to be installed at SIT by 2024 gets funding boost

The microgrid at SIT's future Punggol campus will have features that serve as a test bed for novel energy systems. PHOTO: SIT

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) is set to get the nation's largest private microgrid installed on its premises in 2024.

Microgrids are self-sufficient energy systems that serve a certain area, such as a college campus. And they could be more widely deployed in the decades ahead as Singapore moves to reduce the carbon footprint of its power sector.

This includes tapping more energy sources, such as by installing solar panels on rooftops.

The rise in use of these distributed energy sources would mean the country's largely single-layered grid - where electricity flows from generation companies to users - will become a multi-layered one.

Future users could have part or all of their energy needs met through microgrids, according to the recent Energy 2050 Committee report commissioned by the Energy Market Authority to study the future of Singapore's power sector.

The microgrid to be installed in SIT's future Punggol campus, first announced in 2017, will have features that serve as a test bed for novel energy systems that could accelerate their deployment around the island.

Last Tuesday, the institute announced that utilities company SP Group will pump up an additional $8 million to enhance the multi-energy microgrid, making a total investment of a maximum of $14 million.

With this boost, the microgrid, which is customised for Singapore's tropical climate, will be equipped with more low-carbon technology including building-integrated photovoltaics, which convert sunlight to electricity.

SIT and SP will also design a system that can isolate buildings and certain floors from the national grid for research purposes, said the institute's director of engineering programmes Tseng King Jet.

This means certain buildings on campus with their own solar photovoltaic generation on rooftops and energy storage systems can function as an islanded nanogrid for a limited period of time, Prof Tseng added.

Solar panels will supply about 4 per cent of the total energy needs of the campus, amounting to more than 2,000 megawatt-hour (MWh) annually - about 400 times the average annual consumption of a four-room Housing Board flat.

Energy from the sun is the most viable form of renewable energy for Singapore.

But there remain many challenges to harnessing sunshine, such as the shading effect from other buildings and the lack of land for large solar farms.

This means that electricity will still have to be drawn from the national grid until newer technologies come online.

Still, the campus' microgrid will remain open and flexible to other sources of renewable energy in the future, said Prof Tseng.

This comes as the recent energy report posits that the nation could import more clean energy through regional power grids, develop infrastructure suitable for clean-burning hydrogen to be used as a fuel and monitor new supply technologies including geothermal and nuclear fission small modular reactors.

SIT president Chua Kee Chaing, who took part in the Energy 2050 Committee report, told The Straits Times that the institute's future Punggol campus would be optimised for energy usage with renewable sources of energy and low energy buildings expected to bring annual consumption down from over 78,000MWh to below 52,000MWh. This is equivalent to the average annual electricity consumption of about 12,200 four-room HDB flats.

But students and staff will have to wait a little longer to see the grid as the date of completion has been pushed back a year to 2024.

This is due to a delay in construction works due to disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Prof Chua added.

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