Sound out, light in

12 February 2018 | Research
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The prototype of the double-sided PV module was developed by Dr Khoo (3rd from left) and members of the PV Modules Development Group at SERIS

The Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) at NUS has developed a vertical double-sided photovoltaic (PV) module for converting light into electricity that can potentially be integrated into the sound barriers that line aboveground MRT rail tracks across Singapore.

Presently, natural gas, which has to be imported, forms some 95 per cent of the main energy source for Singapore’s electricity grid. Speaking of the benefits that the project would bring to Singapore, Dr Khoo Yong Sheng, Head, PV Modules Development Group at SERIS, said, “There would be more efficient space utilisation, less reliance on fossil fuel and we can become energy-independent.”

Singapore currently has close to 200km of above- and underground MRT rail tracks. Sound barriers are erected along stretches of aboveground tracks to decrease noise pollution near residential areas. Dr Khoo and his team estimate that fitting vertical PV modules on about 36km of sound barriers will create PV panels that can contribute 25 MWp of electricity.

“The electricity generated from these panels will be enough to power up to 4,900 four-bedroom Housing & Development Board flats for the duration of the system life, which can be up to 30 years,” shared Dr Khoo, adding that solar sound barriers have not been implemented in Singapore.

The PV module developed by SERIS uses a novel digital ceramic printing technology. A study on the vertically mounted double-sided PV module, which is able to convert light into electricity from both sides, showed that they receive at least 15 per cent more solar irradiation compared to a conventionally mounted single-sided module.

The electricity generated from these panels will be enough to power up to 4,900 four-bedroom Housing & Development Board flats for the duration of the system life, which can be up to 30 years.

The PV sound barriers could also be made transparent or enhanced with designs in order to offer passengers an unobstructed and aesthetically pleasing view.

The project is aligned with the national plan to increase the usage of solar energy through initiatives such as the SolarNova programme, which targets to meet 350 MWp of Singapore’s energy needs by 2020.