World’s largest floating solar PV testbed launched in Singapore

Led by the EDB and PUB, a 1 MWp floating solar PV testbed has been launched at Tengeh Reservoir, with project management by the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS).

Singapore, 25 October 2016 - Singapore now hosts the world's largest floating solar photovoltaic (PV) testbed at 1 MWp which aims to study the economic and technological feasibility of deploying large-scale floating PV systems on inland water surfaces. Deployed at Tengeh Reservoir, it comprises 10 different types of floating structures and PV modules of approximately 100 kWp each. This setup allows a comparison of the performance of the PV installations (relative to each other and to PV systems on land) and evaluation of the improved PV performance arising from the cooling effect of the reservoir water. The testbed also features the currently largest floating PV system with active water cooling. In addition, the study looks into the environmental impacts of such systems on the reservoir.

Deployment of this testbed was announced on 25th October 2016 by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Singapore's Minister for Environment and Water Resources, at the Joint Opening Ceremony of the 3rd Asia Clean Energy Summit (ACES) and the 26th Photovoltaic Science and Engineering Conference (PVSEC-26).

The Singapore floating solar PV testbed is a collaborative initiative by the Economic Development Board (EDB) and PUB, Singapore's National Water Agency. The Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) is the project manager responsible for the scientific evaluation of the testbed. The connection of the 10 systems in this testbed to Singapore's electric power grid is expected in December 2016. The companies that have been awarded to participate are listed below, together with the providers of the floating structures and the PV module manufacturers (see Annex A).
As part of its research activities, SERIS has developed an innovative floating solar PV monitoring solution that allows real time tracking of all movements along the three dimensions and their respective rotations to instantaneously know whether the floating systems are drifting from their designated spots (and if so, the extent of drift); whether the systems are sinking; and whether there are any irregular activities, such as interference from wildlife. This holistic monitoring solution will be deployed on every single floating PV structure to also evaluate the respective movements of each individual PV system. Such remote monitoring solutions will also be useful in off-shore floating PV applications, where such deployments may not be visible from land.

Apart from the technical assessment of the floating solar PV systems, PUB will also study the environmental impacts on the reservoir. This includes the reduction of the evaporation of water from the reservoir through less surface area being exposed to direct sunshine. Other impacts under investigation are water quality and biodiversity of the reservoir as a result of the PV installations.

The findings from Phase 1 on technical, economical, and environmental aspects will guide the deployment for a larger 2 MWp system as part of Phase 2 of the testbed in Tengeh Reservoir in 2017. The results from this floating solar PV testbed can also be transferred to other countries, underlining Singapore's position as the regional hub for solar technology.

"With the testbed targeted to start generating solar energy by year-end, PUB is excited to explore the feasibility of these systems in harnessing renewable energy sources. The results of the environmental studies will allow us to make more informed decisions on how some of our reservoirs can support floating solar PV systems in future, after taking into account the economic viability of these systems", said Tan Nguan Sen, Chief Sustainability Officer, PUB.

"As a highly dense city state with limited space for solar deployment, Singapore is placing emphasis on building up urban solar capabilities which include floating solar as a key focus area. Singapore is also positioned as a living lab for companies to test and commercialise innovative urban solutions. We are confident that the floating PV testbed will serve as an important reference for local and international companies to scale up their solar technologies for global markets.", said Mr Goh Chee Kiong, Executive Director for Cleantech at EDB.

"Floating solar PV systems are a major trend in the world in regions that have under-utilised water surfaces available or where land is very expensive. Installations of several megawatt-peak have been realised, for example, in Japan and the UK, but so far not sufficient studies have been carried out to assess in detail the technical implications, as well as the economic and environmental aspects when deploying floating PV systems in larger scale. We therefore want to use this one-megawatt testbed to analyse and quantify the possible benefits, such as the evaporative cooling effect on the PV modules, but also whether there are accelerated degradation effects on the system performance. Eventually, we also plan to develop technical references for floating PV installations together with the relevant international standard-setting bodies to allow the global solar community to benefit from this testbed", said Dr Thomas Reindl, Deputy CEO and Cluster Director for Solar Energy Systems at SERIS.

Due to its location in the tropics, low wind speeds and lack of geothermal or hydro-power resources, solar energy is the most viable source of renewable energy for Singapore. High urban density and limited land area, however, make deployment of solar systems on the island a challenge. Hence floating solar systems are a highly promising option to address the land-scarcity in the city state.

About the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS)

Founded in 2008 and located at the National University of Singapore (NUS), SERIS is Singapore's national institute for applied solar energy research. The institute conducts research, development, testing and consulting in the fields of solar energy conversion and solar building technologies, to contribute towards global sustainable development. SERIS' R&D focus is on materials, components, processes and systems for (i) photovoltaic electricity generation and (ii) solar and energy efficient buildings. SERIS is globally active but focuses on technologies and services for tropical regions, in particular for Singapore and South-East Asia.

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