Floating solar panels make waves

25 October 2016 | Research
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One of the 10 PV structures anchored at Tengeh Reservoir in Tuas

The Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) at NUS is managing the world’s largest floating photovoltaic (PV) test-bed at Tengeh Reservoir. A collaborative initiative spearheaded by Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and PUB, the project team will be conducting a rigorous two-phase study of the economic and technological feasibility of deploying large-scale floating PV systems on inland water bodies.

Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Singapore Minister for Environment and Water Resources, launched the one-hectare test-bed on 25 October at the Joint Opening Ceremony of the 3rd Asia Clean Energy Summit and the 26th Photovoltaic Science and Engineering Conference.

floating pv 2

In his opening address, Mr Masagos said that the pilot project is the first-of-its-kind worldwide due to the variety of floatation systems and PV modules being tested, and the rigour involved in studying the environmental impact of the systems

Phase 1 involves 10 different types of floating structures and PV modules, each generating about 100kWp of power. After a six-month evaluation period, the two best-performing systems will progress to Phase 2 in 2017, where they will be required to produce 1MWp of power each.

Dr Thomas Reindl, Deputy CEO and Cluster Director for Solar Energy Systems at SERIS, said that various parameters would be measured as part of the evaluation. “From a technical perspective, we looked into the performance, which is the yield, how many kWp of solar electricity we get out of 10 different systems, which we can then compare relative to each other,” said Dr Reindl. Other parameters include temperature and irradiance, he added.

SERIS has developed an innovative monitoring solution which tracks movements along three dimensions as well as their respective rotations in real time. To be deployed on every PV structure, the solution would be particularly valuable in the future, when off-shore PV structures might not be visible from land.

floating pv 3

Dr Zhao Lu, Head, Photovoltaic Systems Technology at SERIS and project manager for the PV test-bed, speaking about the different designs

Speaking of Singapore’s drive to accelerate the adoption of solar power, Mr Goh Chee Kiong, Executive Director, Cleantech and Cities, Infrastructure & Industrial Solutions at EDB, said, “We have identified floating solar capabilities as a key focus for us. It’s about grooming our local companies, it’s about attracting international companies to come here to co-innovate with us.”

The environmental impact of the PV structures has not been neglected. Mr Tan Nguan Sen, Chief Sustainability Officer at PUB, Singapore’s national water agency, said that three separate studies dealing with impact on water evaporation, water quality and biodiversity respectively would be conducted. “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,” he shared.

See media coverage.