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Going green: HDB closer to 2020 solar power target as it awards tender to Sembcorp

SINGAPORE – More Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats will be solar powered as the agency ramps up efforts to reduce Singapore’s carbon emissions and move closer to its target of having solar panels installed in 5,500 blocks by 2020.

Going green: HDB closer to 2020 solar power target as it awards tender to Sembcorp

A subsidiary of industrial conglomerate Sembcorp Industries has been awarded a solar leasing tender to install solar photovoltaic panels on the rooftops of flats managed by West Coast and Choa Chu Kang Town Councils, as well as some government sites. TODAY file photo

SINGAPORE – More Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats will be solar powered as the agency ramps up efforts to reduce Singapore’s carbon emissions and move closer to its target of having solar panels installed in 5,500 blocks by 2020.

The HDB has awarded its third solar leasing contract to Sembcorp Solar Singapore – subsidiary of industrial conglomerate Sembcorp Industries – and its appointed engineering, procurement and construction player, Kurihara Kogyo Co.

The project will see the company installing solar photovoltaic panels on the rooftops of 848 HDB blocks in West Coast and Choa Chu Kang, and 27 government sites by the second quarter of 2020, said the HDB in a press release on Sunday (June 24).

The government sites include two sites under the Institute of Technical Education, the Building and Construction Authority Academy, the Heritage Conservation Centre under the National Heritage Board, and a field under Sport Singapore.

This latest tender falls under the SolarNova programme, which aims to spur the growth of Singapore’s solar industry by encouraging government agencies to use solar power.

When completed, the total number of HDB blocks with solar panels will exceed 2,400, which will bring it closer to achieving its goal of having panels in 5,500 blocks by 2020.

The solar power generated from these rooftops can be used to power common services such as lifts, pumps and lighting in common areas in the daytime.

Singapore plans to achieve 350 MWp of solar capacity by 2020, and more than 60 per cent of that will come from HDB’s solar initiatives and programmes.

By that time, the solar panels at HDB blocks are expected to have a capacity of 220MWp, which can generate the equivalent energy to power some 55,000 four-room flats and reduce carbon emissions by 132,500 tonnes a year.


While this is a step in Singapore’s efforts to go green, Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, executive director of the Energy Research Institute at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said more can be done, particularly if developers and large industrial estates join in the initiatives.

He noted that the Government's efforts at raising the adoption of solar energy has been picking up, and said it will be on track to meet the 2020 target capacity of 350 MWp.

For instance, national water agency Public Utilities Board had put up a tender in April to conduct engineering studies for the deployment of floating solar panels in Bedok Reservoir and Lower Seletar Reservoir.

However, Prof Subodh said there is still a big gap between the 2020 SolarNova target and Singapore's potential to generate two gigawatt-peak (GWp) of solar power – or 25 per cent of Singapore’s energy demands – by 2025.

"The next opportunity is for other large industrial estates or developers (with large rooftops) to join in... if we really are ambitious in putting up 2 GWp (of solar capacity)," he said. 

Going forward, Prof Subodh expects more from the private sector to install solar panels on their rooftops as the cost of these systems continue to go down, along with the costs of batteries or energy storage solutions. 

Mr Koh Chiap Khiong, Head of Singapore, South-east Asia & China (Energy), Sembcorp, acknowledged that Singapore’s solar energy market still has “a fair bit of room to grow”.

He said: “We have seen good momentum in recent years, with quite a few companies and industrial facilities exploring rooftop solar solutions. As a company, we’ve moved into this space aggressively.”

Mr Koh added that the Government’s push towards solar energy and its programmes to work with companies to install solar panels in HDB blocks and government facilities will “go a long way to accelerating even wider application of the technology here.”


The HDB’s contract with Sembcorp Solar Singapore and Kurihara Kogyo Co. is the third solar leasing tender under the SolarNova programme.

Sembcorp Solar and Kurihara Kogyo were picked from nine local and foreign companies.

A Sembcorp spokesperson said that the deal will make the firm a “major solar player in Singapore”.

“Sembcorp’s combined solar energy portfolio in Singapore now extends to 104 megawatts of capacity situated across more than 1,500 sites in the country. This is enough to power around 27,400 four-room HDB flats in Singapore per year,” said its spokesperson.

This project will be internally funded and is not expected to have a material impact on the earnings per share and net asset per share of Sembcorp for the financial year ending December 31 this year, said Sembcorp.

With the third tender, HDB will be able to harness 190 MWp of solar capacity from 2,400 HDB blocks – which already makes up more than 85 per cent of HDB’s commitment under the SolarNova programme.

The first was awarded to Sunseap Leasing in December 2015 to install solar panels with a capacity of 76 MWp on the rooftops of some 800 HDB blocks.

The second tender was awarded to Million Lighting Co in June last year, where solar panels with a capacity of 40MWp will be installed at 636 HDB blocks and 31 government sites.

On average, HDB blocks that are installed with solar panels are able to achieve net-zero energy consumption, where the excess solar energy is channelled back into the grid. About 4.1 GWh of solar energy harnessed from HDB blocks is currently exported to the grid each month.

HDB chief executive officer Cheong Koon Hean said the board is making steady progress in its solar initiatives.

To date, solar panels have been installed or fitted in close to a quarter of 10,000 HDB residential blocks. In two years, more than half of these blocks will be fitted or identified for solar installation, added Dr Cheong.

HDB is expected to call for a fourth tender in the fourth quarter of 2019.

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