SERIS celebrates a decade of research excellence and innovation

Singapore’s national institute for applied solar energy research launches three flagship R&D projects to further expand and deepen its capabilities

The Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) commemorated its 10th anniversary today with a full-day event to celebrate its achievements and showcase its cutting-edge research capabilities.

SERIS hosted a special appreciation and networking event in the morning for senior representatives of government agencies and the solar industry. The institute also organised an Open House programme in the afternoon where members of the public could gain a better understand solar technologies through scientific talks, exhibitions, laboratory tours and movie screening.

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Prof Armin Aberle, CEO of SERIS, explaining the institute's solar research capabilities to NUS President Prof Tan Eng Chye (centre)
and Mr Hugh Lim, CEO of the Building and Construction Authority (right).

SERIS was established on 1 April 2008 by its founding Director Professor Joachim Luther, a global authority on solar energy, with a mission to be Singapore’s national institute for applied solar energy research. Supported by NUS, the National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF) and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), the institute has since played an integral role in stimulating the development of Singapore’s Cleantech sector.

Over the last decade, SERIS has grown to become one of the leading applied solar institutes in the world. Today, the institute has a staff strength of 220, including 139 scientists, engineers and technicians, 56 postgraduate research students, 25 technical infrastructure and administration personnel. SERIS had also trained 110 PhD students, many of whom are now contributing to the solar energy sector and some have founded their own start-ups.

SERIS has also established strong collaborations with solar companies in Singapore and around the world, garnering S$30 million in research funding from industry in the last 10 years.

Professor Armin Aberle, Chief Executive Officer of SERIS, said, “Leveraging our world-class research capabilities and services, SERIS is fully committed to be an important player in the solarisation of Singapore and a trendsetter in the global solar energy sector. We will continue to work closely with our research and industry partners to develop novel solutions that can further improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of solar power systems. The ultimate goal is to provide affordable, reliable and secure solar power for our homes, offices and industries.”

World-class solar R&D

Since its inception, SERIS keeps a strong focus on innovation and pushing the boundaries for industry-relevant solar technologies.

In 2012, the institute developed the world’s first all-back-contact silicon solar cell with efficiencies of over 20% using low-cost screen-printed metallisation. The technology was successfully transferred to pilot production at an industrial partner.

From 2014 to 2016, SERIS supported REC Solar in the development of its award-winning TwinPeak solar module. The panel’s world-class efficiency of up to 18% makes it the world’s highest-performing multicrystalline silicon solar panel, with power outputs of 20 Watts more than other commercially available standard panels.

In 2017, SERIS commercialised and licensed an advanced tool design and layer formation method - called “monoPoly technology” - for silicon solar cells with passivated contacts to a large European photovoltaic equipment manufacturer. Furthermore, SERIS produced the world’s first full-size bifacial module with IBC (interdigitated back contact) solar cells, which generates as much as 30% extra power from sunlight reflected off the ground to the module’s rear surface.

SERIS has also developed a proprietary and award-winning real-time monitoring system with very high reliability and availability, which is the backbone of the well-known “Live irradiance map of Singapore” - making Singapore the only country in the world with this capability. The live irradiance and real-time monitoring is also the base of SERIS’ leading solar forecasting work.

Shaping the global PV industry

SERIS also designed, implemented and constantly monitors one of the best-performing PV systems in the world, which is installed within the NUS Kent Ridge Campus. Despite the tougher climatic conditions in the tropics with constant high temperatures and high humidity, this system has been able to achieve a 90% performance ratio (PR), with very little degradation. Knowledge gained from the operation of this system has subsequently been shared with the local PV system integration community through workshops conducted by the institute.

In a similar fashion, SERIS is working closely with government agencies and the private sector to enable the SolarNova programme, which aims to install 350 MWp of PV systems on government-owned buildings by 2020.

Beyond the “classic” rooftop installation, SERIS is now widely recognised as the global leader in “Floating Solar”. Working in close collaboration with the Public Utilities Board (PUB), SERIS operates the world’s largest testbed for floating PV in Singapore, comparatively testing and evaluating 10 different floating PV installations from around the world. This project is funded by EDB. In October 2017, the institute had also organised the first floating solar conference globally at the 2017 Asia Clean Energy Summit.

Mr Lim Kok Kiang, Assistant Managing Director, Singapore Economic Development Board, said: “SERIS will continue to champion the solarisation of Singapore through innovative deployment methods such as floating PV and Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV). Its new BIPV Centre of Excellence will help with pioneering techniques to retrofit existing buildings with solar systems. These initiatives are instrumental to increasing solar deployment in space-constrained Singapore, and will spearhead new markets for our clean energy industry to strengthen our position as a leading Cleantech hub in Asia.”

Please refer to Annex 1 for more information about SERIS’ achievements in the last decade.

New research initiatives to boost solar capabilities

To further strengthen and deepen its capabilities, SERIS has launched on three new flagship R&D projects:

  • To embark on a collaborative research project with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE) of NRF to develop a 30% efficient thin-film-on-silicon tandem solar cell.
  • To develop low-cost, high-efficiency building-integrated PV (BIPV) modules and systems to replace parts of the building envelope with PV, including the facades.
  • To develop a multi-purpose floating PV system that is suitable for off-shore applications in sheltered waters like Singapore.

These projects will complement SERIS’ international R&D leadership in the fields of industrial silicon wafer solar cells, industrial PV module development and testing, “Urban solar”, variability management for PV grid integration, and PV quality assurance.

Please refer to Annex 2 for more details on SERIS’ new flagship R&D projects.