(Natural News) Singapore opened the first large-scale floating solar panel farm on July 15. The Sembcorp Tengeh Floating Solar Farm at the Tengeh Reservoir spans 45 hectares – the size of about 45 football fields. The 60 megawatt-peak (MWp) solar farm contains 122,000 solar panels with an expected lifespan of 25 years. Reports say the new solar plant is part of the Singaporean government’s efforts to quadruple its solar energy production by 2025.
A joint press release by the Singapore Public Utilities Board (PUB) and Singaporean energy firm Sembcorp Industries touted the Tengeh solar farm as one of the world’s largest inland floating solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. The energy produced by the farm is enough to power the island nation’s five water treatment plants.
Singaporean news outlet Channel News Asia (CNA) reported that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong officially opened the solar farm on July 15. Minister of Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu and other officials also attended the opening, the CNA report added.
Lee said during the ceremony that the Tengeh solar farm was the result of the government’s efforts to “explore ways to harness the power of the sun for clean energy.” He emphasized that it was important for Singapore to continue searching for other ways – outside of fossil fuels – to meet its energy needs. “Innovations such as floating solar farms will help us overcome our physical constraints,” Lee added.
The prime minister continued that the Tengeh solar farm “will make Singapore one of the few countries to have a fully green waterworks system running completely on clean energy.” Lee added: “I hope this project will give our solar and renewable energy industry a boost, and pave the way for more such facilities to be built here and in the region.”
PUB Chief Executive Ng Joo Hee said that the agency “takes a big step toward enduring energy sustainability in water treatment” through the solar farm. “Solar energy is plentiful, clean and green, and is key to reducing PUB’s and also Singapore’s carbon footprint,” he added.
A push toward green energy in the Little Red Dot
Prior to constructing the entire solar farm, PUB and the Economic Development Board launched a 1 MWp testbed at Tengeh Reservoir in 2016. A Straits Times report said that tests proved the feasibility of building a solar panel farm that did not affect water quality or the surrounding wildlife. According to Lee, the testbed also performed up to 15 percent better than a conventional rooftop solar power system due to the cooler reservoir water. (Related: Coastal town in Western Australia reaches 100% renewable energy milestone in demo.)
Given the favorable outcome, construction of the Tengeh solar farm began in August 2020 – with the bulk of the work occurring in December 2020. The Times report added that the farm was completed in less than a year despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The completed solar farm located at the western portion of Singapore island occupied about one-third of the reservoir’s total area.
According to Lee, the government of Singapore came up with the idea of a floating solar farm a decade ago. “We were looking for ways to harness solar energy at scale because we do have year-round bright sunlight for solar power,” he said. Lee continued that as the cost of solar cells dropped, Singapore made use of available space to install solar panels such as the rooftops of buildings and vacant state properties.
However, the prime minister remarked that Singapore still lacked large-scale plots of land to scale up its solar power projects. “The idea of a floating solar farm was attractive, because it allowed us to make full use of the large surface area of reservoirs while giving them a dual use.” (Related: Installing solar panels over canals could save California 65 billion gallons of water a year, researcher claims.)
The Sembcorp Tengeh Solar Farm is only the first of Singapore’s forays into floating solar farms. Similar floating solar energy farms are under construction in the island nation’s other reservoirs. Facilities at the Lower Seletar Reservoir in the north and Bedok Reservoir in the east are set to be completed before the end of 2021.
Meanwhile, environmental studies are ongoing for solar farms on top of other water reservoirs. These include a 100 MWp project at Kranji Reservoir near Malaysia and a 6.7 MWp project at Upper Peirce Reservoir in Singapore’s central region.
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