Singapore Completes Large Floating Solar Farm


Reported to be one of the world’s largest floating solar farms on sea water has recently completed construction in Singapore.

Owned by solar energy provider Sunseap Group, the five megawatt-peak system installation will primarily operate in the Straits of Johor, between Singapore and Malaysia and is estimated to produce up to six million kilowatt-hours of energy per year.

About the Project

While the company had to abide by restrictions during the COVID-19 lockdown, Sunseap reports that it was able to construct the floating solar farm in about a year. However, the unpredictable nature of the open sea also posed its own challenges, as crews needed to avoid shipping routes and the presence of barnacles, among other things.

The project involved a total of 13,312 panels, 40 inverters and more than 30,000 floats, all of which were spread out over an area measuring the size of roughly seven football fields.

The solar farm is also equipped with a 22-kilovolt transformer and is the landing point for the subsea cable that transmits the generated power to the national grid. There is also an air-conditioned second deck that doubles up as a visitor center and viewing gallery.

During construction, specifically for mooring installation and system designs, the project required marine expertise. It is because of the mooring system, that the floating solar farm is capable of withstanding changing weather conditions, keeping the platform and all of the operational equipment on board steady.

“One needs to contend with waves, tidal currents, as well as biofouling (the accumulation of unwanted micro-organisms like plants and algae on surfaces, resulting in degradation) that grow rapidly in tropical waters,” said Executive Director of the Nanyang Technological University’s Energy Research Institute, Subodh Mhaisalkar, on the project’s challenges.

Mhaisalkar added that in addition to considering mechanical anchors, electrical systems also needed to be designed properly to transmit power to the shore.

“This is a near-shore installation, but this experience of building such sea water solar farms at scale would be invaluable to venture into installations that are in remote ocean areas that would not have competing use cases for shipping or recreation.

“For Singapore to meet our ambitions for renewables deployment, and for the global efforts to reach carbon neutrality in the upcoming decades, such solutions that extend the opportunity to increase our solar output would have great international demand.”

Once in use, the solar system is slated to produce up to 6 million kW-hours of energy per year and will offset about 4,258 tons of carbon dioxide—or roughly the same amount of greenhouse gases released by more than 900 passenger vehicles a year.

“This is an important milestone for Sunseap as we believe that offshore space like the sea, reservoirs, lakes... offers exciting opportunities for land-scarce and densely populated cities to tap solar energy,” said Frank Phuan, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Sunseap Group. “They are places that are unobscured from the sun and with low risks of vandalism or theft.”

Officials hope that in successfully completing this sea-based solar farm floating system that more like-projects could be used to tap energy in other locations throughout the region. Singapore is committed to reducing carbon emission intensity by 36% from 2005 levels by 2030. The country notes that because of its high levels of solar exposure, solar power a viable option to reach these goals.

Another project currently taking place in the area is Singapore’s Public Utilities Board (PUB) National Water Agency, which is working to construct a 60MW floating solar farm on the Tengeh Reservoir.

Floating Solar Farms

In January 2019, researchers based out of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimated that the use of floating solar photovoltaics on more than 24,000 manmade reservoirs in the United States could contribute 10% of annual national electricity production.

The NREL team also found that implementing floating PV alongside hydroelectric facilities resulted in increased energy output and cost savings due to existing transmission infrastructure. The team’s findings were published in Environmental Science & Technology. NREL’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program, an internal source of financing for research, provided funding for the analysis.

By April of that year, the Sri Lankan government announced its approval of the installation of a 100 MW floating solar power plant in the Maduru Oya Reservoir. The photovoltaic farm was likely to be coupled with battery storage capacity and is implemented by joint venture Sri Lanka Mahewali Authority, state-run Ceylon Electricity Board, the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority and the Canadian Solar Institute.

The construction is just one part of the Soorya Bala Sangramaya Phase IV program, under which the country aims to add 400 MW of solar. Along with the Maduru Oya Reservoir plant, two additional 100 MW plants were planned for Pooneryn and one 100 MW plant in Monaragala.

By 2020, Sri Lanka had hoped to install 200 MW of solar projects and 1,000 MW by 2025.

At the end of the month, construction was announced to be underway for the world’s largest sun-tracking solar farm, a venture that was part of a response to increasing resistance to building wind turbines and solar farms on land. The archipelago-style solar farm was being built on the Andijk reservoir in north Holland.

Arnoud van Druten, the managing director of solar panel supplier Floating Solar, noted that the sun-tracking system involves three buoys “anchoring with cable around it, which turns the island and at the same time keeps the island together. It ensures the island is turned towards the sun.”

When completed, the islands planned to contain 73,500 panels. Phase one of the project included three islands, each 140 meters (roughly 460 feet) in diameter, with construction slated for completion in November, once the migration season for birds has drawn to a close. Van Druten noted that the window to put anything in the water is a limited one—only three months.


Tagged categories: AS; Carbon dioxide; Carbon footprint; China; Completed projects; Energy efficiency; Environmental Controls; Power; Power; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Solar; Solar energy

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