Singapore switches on massive floating solar farm

After a year in construction, Singapore has switched on a 45-hectare solar photovoltaic (PV) farm that floats in the island’s Tengeh Reservoir.

Equivalent in size to some 45 football fields, with 122,000 panels, the 60 megawatt-peak (MWp) array is thought to be one of the world’s largest inland floating solar farms, and will be used to power five water treatment plants.

Its developer, renewable energy conglomerate Sembcorp, said the electricity it generates is enough to power 16,000 homes. 

The clean-power source will cut carbon emissions by about 32 kilotonnes a year, Sembcorp said, equivalent to taking 7,000 cars off the roads.

Singapore’s water agency, the Public Utilities Board (PUB), said it will offset about 7% of its annual energy needs.

As big as 45 football fields, the array will power five water treatment plants (Credit: Sembcorp Industries Ltd)

"Solar energy is plentiful, clean and green, and is key to reducing PUB’s and also Singapore’s carbon footprint," said PUB chief executive, Mr Ng Joo Hee.

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong officiated the launch ceremony on 14 July. The government aims to quadruple solar generating capacity by 2025.

PUB’s main concern was the potential impact on the reservoir’s biodiversity and water quality. It carried out a comprehensive environmental impact study involving consultation with nature groups between 2015 to 2018.

Gaps between solar panels assist airflow and let sunlight reach aquatic life. Additional aerators were installed to maintain oxygen levels.

Floats are made with high-density polyethylene (HDPE), a certified food-grade material that is recyclable, UV- and corrosion-resistant. PUB and Sembcorp will monitor the reservoir closely during the farm’s operation.

Sembcorp highlighted some innovations in the construction process. A custom-built jig increased the rate of panel assembly by up to 50%, and advanced drone electroluminescence imaging pinpointed any defective panels for replacement, ensuring the system runs optimally.

Top image: The 60MWp Sembcorp Tengeh Floating Solar Farm (Credit: Sembcorp Industries Ltd)

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