After a brief summer holiday home in Norway, I am back on the road again. The first stop on The Solar Journey in Asia, was Singapore. But before I went there, I treated myself to a little vacation in Indonesia.
And what a treat it was. Indonesia has easily become one of my favourite countries in the world. Tree weeks of sunshine, island hopping, beaches, diving, snorkelling, waterfall-chasing, bonfires and magical sunsets. I also learned how to freedive. That was definitely a highlight of the holiday. I am now proud to say I can hold my breath for 2,45 minutes and dive down to 20 meters deep on only one breath.
Three weeks in Indonesia has been absolutely amazing, but now it’s back to business and ready to learn more about solar power in Singapore.
The first day in Singapore, I spent sightseeing and strolling around town. It really is a magnificent city/country. I expected almost skyscrapers only, but it has so many small and cute streets as well. Full of streetart and colorful houses.
It´s been a goal for me on this solar journey to visit a floating solar project. Somehow I find it so interesting. Ever since I heard about it for the first time last fall on a CleanTuesday seminar by the Norwegian Solar Energy Cluster, I have wanted to learn more. It still has a long way to go research wise, but I feel like it poses so many new possibilities. Especially in combination with hydropower.
Thanks to the incredibly well connected guys at Glava Energy Center and their friends, they managed to get me a contact named Eddy Blocken on SERIS´s floating solar test lab in Singapore! SERIS or The Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore is a part of NUS (National University of Singapore). Their vision and mission is, as they put it themselves is: To be a leading solar energy research institute in the world, contributing to global sustainable development. They are working to develop and commercialise solar technologies suited for urban and tropical applications, and support industry development and the energy transformation towards higher solar adoption.
Singapore is a small country, with close to zero opportunity of hydropower, or windpower. The country is placed in a position with almost no wind, and no mountains/large rivers, and therefore solar power is the only solution for them to produce renewable energy. Singapore’s 721,5 km2 gives very little space for regular solar farms, so their option is to put it on buildings or be a bit more creative; and put it on water.
Eddy Blocken, the manager for business development at SERIS, started by holding a presentation about their history and projects, before we rode his massive motorbike out to the test bed. Which by the way, is the largest floating PV test bed in the world. At the test bed, there are 12 different systems in testing, 11 on the water and one on a roof nearby. The project, supported by their government, wants to find the key elements to make such a system successful in Singapore. It all started with a 50MWp floating project at the same location as the test bed, as well as a 100MWp request for information for another waterbody in Singapore, called Kranji. In total Singapore could potentially have 10% of its current electricity needs from floating solar systems placed on drinking water reservoirs. That´s a lot!
Eddy took me through all the different projects and technologies on the test bed. They are all 100kW each, and are being monitored and checked against each other as well as the roof installation. He explained all their differences and similarities. What seems to be working and not. Which challenges each one of them faces. And so on.
Floating solar has many advantages. When the solar panels become too hot, their efficiency is reduced. (Which, by the way, is a reason why solar is working quite well in the cold climate of Norway. Less sun, but higher efficiency than tropical climates). If you put solar power on water in tropical climates, it cools down the back of the panel, and makes them more efficient. SERIS was originally focusing on fresh water lakes, but is shifting towards marine applications as the potential is even larger (but so the challenges). Lakes are definitely the easiest, but I know there is a Norwegian company called Ocean Sun that seems to be successful in trying it out on the ocean as well.
So much research going on, and so much potential!
Thank you so much Eddy and SERIS, for showing me around.
Stay tuned for my next blogpost from my visit to REC.