On 1 April 2008, the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) at NUS started its operations with just 18 employees. Fast forward ten years, the Institute has expanded to house some 220 staff, including scientists, engineers, technicians and postgraduate students, and has become one of the 10 largest solar laboratories in the world. SERIS commemorated its 10th anniversary on 5 April with a day-long celebration including an exhibition showcasing their various research projects, guided lab tours, engaging talks and a movie screening.
In his speech at the event, Professor Armin Aberle, CEO of SERIS, shared how the Institute has been using its laboratories to conduct cutting-edge research on low-cost high-performance solar cells, modules and systems. A major research breakthrough was the development of a proprietary and award-winning real-time monitoring system with high reliability, which forms the basis of the “Live irradiance map of Singapore”. The map measures in real time the amount of solar energy in the country that can be converted to electricity. Singapore is the only country in the world with this capability.
SERIS has also been involved in the development of innovative and world-class solar panels, such as the award-winning TwinPeak solar module that boasts 7 per cent more power than standard panels and is the world’s highest-performing multicrystalline silicon solar module, as well as bifacial photovoltic (PV) modules for sound barrier applications. Its expertise in solar cell development stretches to artificial intelligence (AI), the Institute having developed an all-in-one solar cell characterisation, analysis and simulation tool based on AI that is currently licensed to two solar companies.
SERIS is optimistic that its research and development activities will contribute significantly to further reduce the cost of solar electricity, said Prof Aberle.
“If research institutes such as SERIS and the solar industry keep innovating, then solar will gain an ever increasing share of the power generation mix. This in turn will help Singapore to achieve its carbon emission targets, and at the same time will provide a clean, green and healthy environment for future generations,” he said.
This hope for a clean, green and healthy environment is a shared focus of NUS. Sustainability is one of the core values at the University, said NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye at the event, adding that NUS aims to help Singapore achieve greater sustainability through partnerships with external organisations, community outreach and using the campus as a testbed for innovative ideas.
“In this endeavour, SERIS plays a key role, by developing novel technology solutions to make the harnessing of solar power more efficient and economical, as well as working closely with public and private sector partners to address the challenges of optimising solar power systems to local conditions. SERIS is also a fine example of our university’s efforts to ramp up its research translation and enterprise activities, and to shorten the time to bring our research discoveries to industry,” said Prof Tan.
In a statement, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean noted how SERIS has played a key role in Singapore’s shift to cleantech, highlighting the world’s largest floating PV testbed at Tengeh Reservoir managed by SERIS, as well as the Institute's real-time monitoring of PV systems and meteorological parameters.
“The good work from our energy research institutes such as SERIS will help to accelerate the deployment of more efficient and cost-effective clean energy solutions. This is an important part of our national plan to reach the national targets that we have set for the Paris Agreement,” said Mr Teo.
Prof Aberle took the opportunity at the event to announce three flagship projects currently in the works.
The first will be a collaboration with Nanyang Technological University and Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise to look into creating a thin-film-on-silicon tandem solar cell that will push the current limit to efficiency of 28 per cent under natural sunlight to more than 30 per cent.
In a bid to cover more of the country with PV cells and overcome land constraints, SERIS will also be working on developing low-cost, high-efficiency PV modules and systems to replace parts of buildings, including the facades.
Finally, launching off the success of the testbed at Tengeh Reservoir, the Institute will be expanding into the development of a multipurpose floating PV system suitable for off-shore applications in sheltered waters.
See press release.