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PUB to explore floating solar PV systems at reservoirs

Published 28 September 2017

Public Utilities Board (PUB), Singapore-based national water agency, has agreed to explore 50MWp floating solar PV system in Tengeh reservoir and a 6.7MWp floating solar PV system in Upper Peirce reservoir.

Solar PV technology has been identified as a key renewable energy source that has high potential for large-scale deployment in Singapore.  Solar energy reduces Singapore’s reliance on fossil fuels, contributes towards the national climate change mitigation pledges, and supports PUB’s efforts to adopt renewable energy in our operations.

Already, this form of clean energy is becoming increasingly cost-competitive and is being deployed extensively in Singapore and elsewhere in the world.

While most solar PV panels are deployed on land or rooftops, waterbodies with significant surface areas present greater potential especially in land-scarce countries like Singapore. Overseas, China has a 40MWp floating solar PV system in Anhui province’s Huainan city, while United Kingdom has a 6.3MWp floating solar PV system in London.

A floating solar PV system test-bed was launched at Tengeh Reservoir in October 2016. Results so far show that the system performed better than a typical rooftop solar PV system in Singapore, due to the cooler temperatures of the reservoir environment.

To date, there were also no observable changes in water quality in the reservoir and no significant impact on wildlife from ongoing studies on water quality and biodiversity. Building on the results of the test-bed, PUB is exploring the feasibility of deploying a 50 MWp floating solar PV system at Tengeh Reservoir. The amount of energy generated can potentially power about 12,500 4-room HDB homes.

With its close proximity to the Chestnut Avenue Waterworks, Upper Peirce Reservoir is another potential location that PUB is considering for floating solar PV.  Solar energy generated can be fed directly to the nearby Waterworks for its water treatment operations, helping it reduce its reliance on grid energy.

PUB will be carrying out comprehensive environmental studies at the two reservoirs before making any decision on implementation. The studies also include developing environmentally sensitive designs and construction processes. For example, there will be no infringement into the forested areas.

It is envisaged that the solar panels will occupy about 2 percent of Upper Peirce Reservoir’s water surface area and about one-third of Tengeh Reservoir’s water surface area.

To make a thorough assessment, the consultants to be appointed for the environmental studies will be assessing the significance of the impacts on all flora and fauna and water quality of the reservoirs.

They will then recommend corresponding mitigation or avoidance measures and appropriate monitoring framework, which will be documented in an Environmental Management and Monitoring Plan (EMMP).

PUB has also consulted environmental groups (see Annex B) such as Nature Society of Singapore on the scope of the environmental studies, and will continue to consult relevant groups as the projects develop.

Besides the testbed at Tengeh Reservoir, past solar projects by PUB include solar panels at land installations such as Choa Chu Kang Waterworks and Marina Barrage.

PUB is also participating in HDB’s solar leasing contracts, under the government-led solar programme SolarNova, to install solar PV systems at Changi Water Reclamation Plant, Bedok Waterworks and WaterHub.

PUB chief sustainability officer Tan Nguan Sen said: “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. However, the lack of deployable land space imposes a limit on what we can reap from this clean energy.

"The natural option is our vast water surface but we want to study the possible impact and relevant mitigating measures very carefully before reaching a decision to proceed with large-scale floating solar PV deployment. We will continue to consult relevant groups as the studies progress."