The World’s Largest Floating Solar Power Farm in Singapore

Despite the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, a sus­tain­able ener­gy break­through was launched in Sin­ga­pore when it offi­cial­ly opened one of the world’s largest float­ing solar pow­er plants. This impres­sive float­ing solar facil­i­ty also makes Sin­ga­pore one of the few coun­tries in the world to pro­duce 100% clean ener­gy with its green water­works sys­tem.

Singapore’s SEMBCORP Floating Solar Farm

On July 14, 2021, Sin­ga­pore made a beau­ti­ful his­to­ry when it offi­cial­ly opened the world’s largest float­ing solar farm.

The project (which start­ed in August 2020) was ini­tial­ly planned to be 10 years in the mak­ing but it was short­ly com­plet­ed in less than a year. It is oper­at­ed by Sem­b­corp Float­ing Solar Sin­ga­pore, a sub­sidiary of the ener­gy and urban devel­op­ment com­pa­ny Sem­b­corp Indus­tries.

The mas­sive float­ing solar farm at Tengeh Reser­voir spans the size of 45 soc­cer fields. It was built using 122,000 solar pan­els that are spread across 10 solar-pan­el islands. Its solar mod­ules are made of dou­ble-glass mate­r­i­al and have a ser­vice life of up to 25 years. It can gen­er­ate a total of 60 megawatts which is enough to sup­ply Singapore’s 5 water treat­ment plants or pow­er about 16,000 four-room flats.

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Floating Solar Farm as a Creative Green Energy Solution

As the coun­try lacks large-scale areas of land to devel­op solar farms, it alter­na­tive­ly tapped on large areas of reser­voirs to scale up its solar pow­er capac­i­ty. With this, they were able to mate­ri­al­ize cre­ative clean ener­gy while main­tain­ing their reser­voir to func­tion just the same. Singapore’s lit­tle land space was effec­tive­ly extend­ed through the float­ing solar pow­er plant.

More­over, the float­ing solar sys­tem proved to be up to 15% bet­ter than the usu­al rooftop solar pan­els due to the reser­voirs’ cool­er envi­ron­ment. This set­ting also allows full sun expo­sure with no shad­ing from trees or near­by build­ings. Nonethe­less, solar pow­er plants do not guar­an­tee a con­tin­u­ous pow­er sup­ply due to the occur­rence of rainy and cloudy days. Thus, com­mer­cial­ly usable stor­age remains essen­tial. Sem­b­corp Indus­tries announced that it is inten­sive­ly look­ing for viable solu­tions and that it hopes to present them in the next one or two years.

Inter­est­ing­ly, the float­ing solar facil­i­ty was built with eco­log­i­cal via­bil­i­ty in mind. Envi­ron­men­tal con­sul­ta­tions and envi­ron­men­tal impact stud­ies were car­ried out pri­or to the con­struc­tion.

It was designed to pro­duce min­i­mal impacts on the over­all water qual­i­ty, plants and wildlife. In fact, two-thirds of the reser­voir is untouched to allow wildlife to live nor­mal­ly and hunt for food. The design also incor­po­rat­ed addi­tion­al aer­a­tors to bal­ance oxy­gen lev­els in the reser­voir. Ample gaps between solar pan­els were also main­tained to allow prop­er air­flow of suf­fi­cient sun­light to pass through the sys­tem. Com­pre­hen­sive envi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment and mit­i­ga­tion plans are also in place to ensure that all aspects are work­ing in per­fect har­mo­ny with the envi­ron­ment.

Ulti­mate­ly, solar radi­a­tion and ambi­ent tem­per­a­ture are mea­sured using drones. This tech­nol­o­gy ensures that immi­nent over­heat­ing can be rec­og­nized and pre­vent­ed in good time.

Increasing the Efficiency of Floating Solar PV with PADCON Float Controller

While solar pan­els have an aver­age lifes­pan of 25 years, it is also sus­cep­ti­ble to Poten­tial Induced Degra­da­tion or PID effect. This PID results in reduced polar­iza­tion and cur­rent leak­age that reduces the over­all pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of solar pan­els over time.

With­out PID pro­tec­tion, the degra­da­tion val­ue is usu­al­ly well over 0.25% per year, with the loss­es adding up year after year. After ten years, a degra­da­tion of 2.5% can be assumed.

The high sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty to PID effect on float­ing solar pan­els has sev­er­al caus­es:

  • The humid­i­ty on the water is very high and the air is par­tic­u­lar­ly humid which con­tributes to the devel­op­ment of a PID effect
  • Nor­mal­ly the ground pro­tects against the PID effect, but the risk to peo­ple on the water is too high, which is why ground­ing is com­plete­ly dis­pensed with
  • Gen­er­al­ly, the high­er the volt­age, the high­er the risk of PID. New plants, like the one in Sin­ga­pore, work with a very high volt­age of about 1500 V.

Thank­ful­ly, there is a way to increase the effi­cien­cy of float­ing solar pan­els. PADCON intro­duces a mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy that can solve PID prob­lems with their PID Float Con­troller — it is a tried and test­ed PID solu­tion that can sig­nif­i­cant­ly increase the PV effi­cien­cy of float­ing solar pan­els.

By pre­vent­ing the PID effect and the result­ing increase in the out­put of a solar pow­er plant, investors have an amor­ti­za­tion peri­od of between half a year and around two years.

The Singapore Green Plan 2030

Sin­ga­pore strong­ly envi­sions itself to be a low-car­bon coun­try and it is dri­ven to fur­ther inten­si­fy its efforts towards sus­tain­abil­i­ty.

The expan­sion of solar ener­gy pro­duc­tion is an impor­tant pil­lar of the Sin­ga­pore Green Plan 2030. With this facil­i­ty, Sin­ga­pore can slash about 32 kilo­tonnes of car­bon emis­sions each year. Sin­ga­pore tar­gets to quadru­ple its solar ener­gy out­put by 2025 despite the fact that Sin­ga­pore has rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle space avail­able. Four solar PV projects are sched­uled for com­ple­tion this year, includ­ing the Low­er Sele­tar Reser­voir and Bedok Reser­voir.

More projects are tar­get­ed to mate­ri­al­ize as part of Sin­ga­pore Green Plan 2030 such as:

  • Sin­ga­pore aims to become a “zero waste” soci­ety and is push­ing for 100% recy­cling of wastes;
  • The expan­sion of parks and green spaces and the plant­i­ng of a mil­lion trees so that all house­holds in Sin­ga­pore must live near a green park;
  • Min­i­mize car traf­fic in inner cities and the pro­mo­tion of pub­lic trans­port and cycling. Today, Sin­ga­pore records that more than 60% of all jour­neys are ser­viced by pub­lic trans­port. By 2030, it is tar­get­ed to be at 75%;
  • Cre­at­ing aware­ness for sus­tain­abil­i­ty in the pop­u­la­tion through appro­pri­ate edu­ca­tion.
  • The pro­mo­tion of region­al food pro­duc­tion.
  • The pro­mo­tion of bio­di­ver­si­ty and har­mo­nious coex­is­tence of humans and wild ani­mals;

Sin­ga­pore is tru­ly an impres­sive leader in terms of sus­tain­abil­i­ty. It is con­tin­u­al­ly trans­form­ing its city-state faster than most oth­er coun­tries and states. Prime Min­is­ter Lee Hsien Loong said that Sin­ga­pore today is one of the solar-dense cities in the world and it shall con­tin­ue to sur­prise the world with its sus­tain­able and futur­is­tic mile­stones.