As the world makes a push towards clean energy, Singapore is not lagging. There is an ambitious program to increase the share of clean energy in the next 5-10 years. It will wean the country off the current reliance on fuel energy. The switch is timely because most Singaporeans are aware of the disastrous effects of global warming caused by fuel energy. As residents in a region seeing more extreme weather incidents, Singaporeans are eager to see the switch to clean energy happen.
Why Energy Storage Systems Matter
Renewable energy systems rely heavily on energy storage systems. Solar and wind energy are intermittent. Solar power is available during daylight and unavailable at night or when it is very cloudy. Wind power varies depending on the prevailing winds.
Energy storage systems enable the generation and storage of power, such that it is accessible when needed. Solar energy systems use solar panels with photovoltaic cells to convert light energy from the sun into power. The power is then stored in solar batteries for use when there is no sunshine. Wind power systems convert wind energy into power using wind turbines. This power is also stored in high-capacity batteries.
Energy storage systems are instrumental in Singapore’s switch to clean energy to enable a stable power supply to homes and businesses. Batteries remain the main technology for energy storage solutions. Renewable energy adoption is increasing as solar battery capacity rises, and batteries become cheaper.
Singapore’s Promising Solar Power Capacity
Solar power is at the center of Singapore’s strategy in switching to clean energy. Singapore developed a 4-stage energy plan that will see mass generation and adoption of solar energy. The 2nd switch this plan aimed at generating solar energy and countering intermittency. Singapore achieved the first target of installing 350 Megawatt-peak (MWp) of solar power in the first quarter of 2020.
The next target is 2 Gigawatt-peak (GWp) of solar energy by the year 2030. The plan hopes to connect over 350,000 households to renewable energy. The Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) has laid out the plan to have solar power contribute a 28% share of peak power energy by 2030. This share will climb to 43% of peak power demand by 2050.
Singapore lies in a region that sees a lot of sunshine around the year. Daylight hours average 12 hours in all months of the year. Grid-connected solar energy was 384 MW at the end of 2020. Non-residential solar energy use takes the larger share at 53%, while residential use was at 31%, and public sector facilities take up the rest.
At the end of the first quarter of 2020, there were about 4,067 solar PV panels, out of which 2,759 panels were in non-residential use, and 1,308 were installed on home rooftops. The North-eastern part of Singapore leads in residential installations, with 46% of all solar PV panels.
Rethinking Solar Power Generation
Singapore limited land on which to install solar panels, which has led to rethinking ways to generate solar power. The most promising way of harnessing solar power has been the development of offshore solar farms. These are solar panels laid over water in the ocean.
There is a vast area on which to develop these solar farms. The biggest marine solar farm is in Johor Straits. This solar farm has 13,000 solar panels that generate 5 Megawatts (5MW), enough to power 1,400 homes. There is a plan to establish the biggest solar farm in Asia, with 122,000 solar panels.
Apart from sea solar farms, there are plans to deploy solar panels on inland water bodies, including Bedok and Lower Seletar reservoirs. There is also a plan to develop a 60 Megawatts(MW) solar farm on Tengeh reservoir.
Singapore’s urban landscape also offers lots of space to harness solar energy. For example, the PSA terminal at Tuas has integrated solar PV cells in the exterior walls. Architects are working on innovative ways of integrating solar panels in Singapore’s skyscrapers. There are also plans to install solar panels on passive urban infrastructures like sidewalks and bus shelters. Solar panels could also be placed on roads to generate energy and also act as noise barriers.
Role of Solar Batteries in Singapore’s Clean Energy Switch
Energy storage will be the biggest determinant of the success of renewable energy adoption. Battery technology is crucial in countering the intermittency of solar power and providing stable power at peak demand.
Battery capacity has risen as prices have dropped. In 2010, the price of solar batteries was around $1,100 per Kilowatt-hour. In 2020, the price had declined by over 85% to around $156 per Kilowatt-hour. It is estimated it will drop further to $100 per kilowatt hour in 2024.
Large capacity solar battery technology will give stability to solar power grids. High capacity solar batteries are already deployed in different places across the world. Currently, the biggest solar battery has a 100 Megawatt capacity, enough to power 30,000 homes in Australia. There are plans to deploy a 300 Megawatt solar battery by the end of 2021 in California.
The biggest solar battery in Singapore currently has a 2.4 Megawatt capacity. There is a bigger 7.5 Megawatt capacity battery that will store power from a marine solar farm. The project is expected to come online by 2023 and have enough power for 600 4-room HDB apartments.
Advances in Battery Technology
Batteries are playing a crucial role as energy storage solutions for renewable energy. Lithium-ion batteries remain the most popular types of solar batteries. There is research into making lithium batteries of higher energy density and longevity. It involves substituting cobalt for other materials such as nickel and Sulphur, which are cheaper.
But there is research into alternative battery technologies that can support solar-powered grids at a low cost. Flow batteries are showing good promise because of their scalability. These batteries use the liquid electrolyte stored in tanks. The electrolyte can be added to increase the battery’s capacity. Solid-state batteries will eliminate liquid electrolyte and use solid superionic conductors.
Singapore is on the path to mass adoption of renewable energy. Solar energy storage systems offer the best promise. Solar battery technology will enable this switch with high capacity energy storage. The benefits will be profound, including cleaner air and a more sustainable environment.