New lab to test, develop solar panels

Published: 4:04 AM, July 19, 2014

SINGAPORE — Against growing global demand for solar energy, the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) has opened a new facility to develop and test new solar panels under one roof.

The S$6 million facility, described by SERIS — which is part of the National University of Singapore — as the only one of its kind in South-east Asia, could also allow for more solar panels to be tested at once when the facility, which serves both the academic community and industry, acquires new equipment in the future.

The opening of the 1,700sqm facility yesterday comes as the total installed capacity of grid-connected solar photovoltaic modules rose from 0.4 megawatt-peak (MWp) in 2008 to 18.1MWp in Singapore as of the first quarter of this year, according to Energy Market Authority figures.

The space brings together existing facilities, which will save time, said SERIS deputy chief executive officer Thomas Reindl at the official opening yesterday. “You can basically make a (solar) module in the morning, torture it in the late afternoon, (and) you would find out whether the idea that you had in the morning was good or not,” Dr Reindl said.

At the lab, solar panels are subject to “torture” to assess their durability in a tropical climate. This includes shining UV light on it or immersing it in moist tropical air. Solar panels are required to last more than 20 years, he said. The lab will also facilitate the research and development of the pilot production of panels with innovative designs.

Dr Reindl added that by establishing Singapore as a global test centre, Singapore will attract many industry players to establish their regional headquarters here, bringing with them revenue for the country.