Why Singapore should be Energy Independent

A Singaporean's viewpoint - written by ChantC, edited by ChaiR - all in the month of April

Looking out over Singapore's skyline

Just imagine all the HDBs (high rise flats) roof tops with solar panels.  Where there's sunlight, the solar panel will provide the electricity and the rest will be provided by the power grid.  Ditto for water. This will really make us self-sufficient, since we have more HDBs than private estates.

I was lamenting the fact that since we're right at the equator, why are we not making full use of the solar energy that we take for granted.  For implementation of solar panels, I believe that payback could be measured in terms of the whole picture. Looking at short-term gains, none will find the reason to go for solar energy. 


However, looking from another view point:

1. First step in reducing our average temperature (priceless)
2. Reduce reliance on other countries (priceless)
3. Building up our own clean energy industry for a long term energy solution for our current and future generation (priceless)
4. Singapore becomes a leader in Asia for green energy

Thin filmed photovoltaic
membranes on rooftop, Dehli

Look at any of the above reasons, its worth the effort for the government to invest in solar energy, which they should have done in 2003!! Co-payment might be an option, but seeing that this benefits Singapore in the long run, the government should pay the bulk.

If they can afford to pay 2million to the ministers, and lose 2billion in Thailand, this should be peanuts to them.  It has been frustrating as a "developed country" to see capital investments on green technologies perhaps being ignored in favour of consumerism and sitting on the fence.

Thankfully government ministers are starting to recognise that we are lagging in technologies that matter.  Visits to Germany and Switzerland have highlighted where we should be and how sweet the air could smell if we too reduced our environmental impact on this planet, starting from our power stations.  It is noted that EDB has promised S$350 million over the next five years to help clean up Singapore's energy facilities.  I wonder if that includes green energy grants for Singaporeans taking matters into their own hands to reduce their carbon emissions.

In China (Shijiazhuang) they already manage roof tops of flats with solar water heaters for each building.  Additionally China has started to manufacture and export solar panels to Germany.  Perhaps this is a hypocrisy?  It has been reported in the Financial Times that China's carbon emissions are set to rise above the US's emissions by next year.  This seems pretty reasonable as practically everything we buy is made in China.  However in the same paragraph it is reported that per individual China emits 3.2 tonnes of carbon per head against the US's 20 tonnes per head. 

So Germany has less carbon emissions because it imports solar panels made in China and China has higher carbon emissions due to the manufacturing process.  Perhaps we should be giving China carbon credits for their part in the manufacture of parts that are used for producing green energies.

After all these years it is exciting to note a couple of developments have recently emerged:

The Thermal Solar Plant in Séville  (BBC)

1. A German solar power company called Solar Tec is investing S$70 million in Singapore, to build a research and development facility next year.  They will use special lenses to converge the sun's rays to a single spot which will be captured by an electronic chip to convert solar energy to electricity more efficiently.  Their website says it is more efficient than a silicon based panel and also is half the costs

2. A German based energy firm called SolarWorld is considering investing S$300 million in two solar plants in Singapore, over the next two years that will produce 30 or 60 megawatts (MW).  The other country under consideration is South Korea.  We may lose out to South Korea due to the apparent land availability for creating such a plant.

Solar cells produced on plastic

If we lose the business, Singapore should look at Spain's 11MW facility in Seville, or their current construction of a 50 MW of solar thermal generation using molten sand to extend daily electricity generation to up to 20 hours!  This construction is expected to be completed in  December 2007.

Singapore should also look to companies that are using nanotechnology to produce thin filmed voltaic solar panels which have been stated as costing a fifth of the price of the standard silicon panels, or otherwise check out the use of printing solar cells on plastic sheeting (NB the latter is still in development stage)

Come on Singapore you can do it!  HDB rooftops are the way to go.  Power to the people!