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Slew of measures to support uptake of solar energy announced at SIEW

SINGAPORE — Singapore will boost its ability to forecast solar energy output through a S$6.2 million research grant awarded to a consortium led by the National University of Singapore, one of a slew of solar-related initiatives announced on Monday (Oct 23).

SINGAPORE — Singapore will boost its ability to forecast solar energy output through a S$6.2 million research grant awarded to a consortium led by the National University of Singapore, one of a slew of solar-related initiatives announced on Monday (Oct 23).

The consortium will work with the Energy Market Authority (EMA) and the Meteorological Service Singapore to develop a forecasting model. The model would help to improve management of the fluctuations in solar output to ensure grid reliability, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Sim Ann at the opening of the Singapore International Energy Week.

Local weather conditions are marked by humidity and intense cloud cover on rainy days, which can cause significant drops in the amount of solar energy generated.

Fluctuations, “if not properly accounted for… may lead to imbalances between electricity demand and supply, especially when solar energy becomes a larger part of the fuel mix,” said an EMA spokesperson.

Singapore’s deployment of solar energy could reach 350 megawatt-peak (MWp) by 2020, and more than one gigawatt-peak after that, which would represent about 15 per cent of electrical power demand at peak during the day, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean had said in June.

Between 2014 and this year, installed solar capacity has quadrupled to about 140 MWp.

The researchers will look at improving the accuracy of solar photovoltaic output forecasts and grid management by using techniques in weather prediction and remote sensing, among other things.

They will also use data from sensors installed on rooftops and those installed by the Met Service.

The EMA also announced on Monday parties that produce less than 10 MW of solar energy will be able to sell excess electricity back to the main grid – up from the previous cap of below 1 MW under the Central Intermediary Scheme.

From April next year, they will not need to register as a market participant and can directly approach SP Group to receive payment for the excess electricity.

The enhancement to the scheme will make it easier for solar adopters, such as Nanyang Technological University, to sell excess solar energy into the power grid.

As of the third quarter of this year, there are more than 2,000 grid-connected solar installations, said an EMA spokesperson. Most of installations are below 1MW and about five contestable consumers have sold excess electricity back to the grid. There are around 10 installations that have inverter capacity of between 1 and 10 MW.

And by 2023, Singapore will test its first urban micro-grid at the Singapore Institute of Technology’s (SIT) future campus in Punggol. The university and SP Group signed an agreement to build the experimental grid, which will integrate gas, electricity and thermal energy into one network. Solar energy and energy storage technolgoies will also be part of the micro-grid, which is able to unplug and operate independently of the national grid, such as during emergencies.

The microgrid at SIT is expected to have a capacity of 8 to 10MWp and SIT president Tan Thiam Soon said microgrids are key to building the country’s energy resilience. “We can create energy to supply back to the grid. Or when we need, the grid can supply energy… In critical moments, we can seal ourselves and be self-sufficient or help just the Punggol digital district,” he said.

The two existing microgrids on Pulau Ubin and Semakau Landfill are not connected to the main grid.

The EMA and SP Group also announced two Singapore-led consortiums – CW Group and Red Dot Power – will be testing the Republic’s first utility-scale energy storage systems, a crucial component in the ramp-up of solar energy adoption.

Both consortiums will receive about S$17.8 million in grants to build the two systems, which are expected to be in operation for three years.

Energy storage supports the use of intermittent power sources like solar, by reducing peak demand and providing regulation reserves, said EMA and SP Group in a joint press release.

The CW Group-led consortium will test-bed lithium-ion batteries for high-power applications, while Red Dot Power will test-bed the chemical-based redox flow batteries for “peak shaving” – where stored energy in the batteries will be used to meet part of the peak-hour demand.

Both systems, which are expected to be ready in 12 to 18 months, will be tested to see how they perform in Singapore’s hot, humid and highly urbanised environment.

They will be located at two substations in north and north-eastern Singapore and have a total capacity of 4.4 MWh, which is enough to power more than 330 four-room flats for a day.

Ms Sim said insights gained from the test-bed would help develop standards and policies for the deployment of large-scale energy storage solutions in Singapore.

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