Singapore To Test World's Largest Floating Solar Farms

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May. 24 2019, Updated 4:23 a.m. ET

Singapore, a country with over 5.5 million people, is out of space to develop new ideas. They’ve been looking underground to give them more space, but for the addition of a solar farm, that would be a hard thing to accomplish. Still wanting to add a large amount of renewable energy, they’ve decided to look out into a nearby reservoir for additional room.

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The Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore will be testing out various designs of solar farms that can float along their territory. Whatever design works best will be expanded into a full-fledged solar farm that will have a capacity of up to four gigawatts. Even during the testing period, they should be able to pull in enough renewable energy to power over 250 apartments in the city.

Installing solar panels on rooftops was not a completely viable option for Singapore. While some are being put in where applicable, they need a much bigger area to supply their city. The biggest issue with solar panels on rooftops is that many skyscrapers wouldn’t be able to pick up sunlight efficiently. Thomas Reindl, CEO of SERIS, believes that the reservoir is the best choice on the table in a FastCompany report, explaining, "The vast majority of photovoltaic installations in Singapore will obviously be on rooftops, but even those are limited...Alternative areas have been explored, and one of the most promising options is inland water reservoirs.”

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Singapore’s solar farm will be placed in the same area that contains the population’s drinking water. While that initially sounds pretty disgusting, part of the testing process will make sure nothing gets contaminated in the water among their design options. Even better, there’s an opportunity for the water and solar panels to help each other out. For example, the shade from the panels could keep water from evaporating while the liquid cools off the panels for better efficiency.

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This new floating solar farm would become the biggest in the world by a large margin. It would beat out the one created by the Sungrow Power Supply Company that has a capacity of 40 megawatts and is located just outside of Huainan, China. The company took advantage of a flooded area that used to be used for mining. The project currently holds the size record for biggest floating solar farm and it was completed just last month.

Solar projects like this will continue to crop up as the technology continues to get cheaper worldwide. Singapore is hoping that solar energy will offset five percent of energy consumption by 2020. They’re also planning to add solar panels on facilities like their local fire station and prison headquarters. If the floating system works out, more could be added not only in their own reservoir, but in other locations across the world.

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