Singapore builds floating solar farms in climate fight


This photograph taken on February 3, 2021 shows workers assembling solar panels on the shore of the Tengeh reservoir as part of the constuction of a floating solar power farm in Singapore. - Thousands of panels glinting in the sun stretch into the sea off Singapore, part of the land-scarce city-state's push to build floating solar farms to cut greenhouse gas emissions. - AFP

Singapore: Thousands of panels glinting in the sun stretch into the sea off Singapore, part of the land-scarce city-state’s push to build floating solar farms to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

It may be one of the world’s smallest countries, but the prosperous financial hub is among the biggest per capita carbon dioxide emitters in Asia.

And while authorities have been pushing to change that, renewable energy is a challenge in a country with no rivers for hydro-electricity and where the wind is not strong enough to power turbines.

So the tropical country turned to solar power -- however, with little land space in a place half the size of Los Angeles, it has resorted to setting up energy plants off its coasts and on reservoirs.

“After exhausting the rooftops and the available land, which is very scarce, the next big potential is actually our water area, ” said Jen Tan, senior vice president and head of solar in South-East Asia at conglomerate Sembcorp Industries, which is building a project.

An island-state threatened by rising sea levels because of climate change, Singapore is aware of the urgency of cutting emissions, although critics say authorities’ environmental commitments have thus far fallen short.

The government last month unveiled a wide-ranging “green plan” that included steps such as planting more trees, reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills and building more charging points to encourage the use of electric cars.

Among the measures is increasing solar energy use four-fold to around 2% of the nation’s power needs by 2025, and to 3% by 2030 – enough for 350,000 households per year.

As well as on water, solar power plants have already been built on rooftops and on the ground.

One newly built solar farm spreads out from the coast into the Johor Strait, which separates Singapore from Malaysia.

The 13,000 panels are anchored to the seabed and can produce five megawatts of electricity, enough to power 1,400 flats for an entire year.

“The sea is a new frontier for solar to be installed, ” said Shawn Tan, vice-president for engineering at Singaporean firm Sunseap Group, which completed the project in January.

“We hope that this will set a precedent to have more floating projects in the sea in Singapore and neighbouring countries, ” he said. ─ AFP

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