SESEA 2014: Subsidy-free Singapore seeks to overcome solar intermittency

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Singapore is looking to aggregate solar energy generation to defeat the issue of intermittent power from cloud cover.

Power would still be variable, but more stable, and would require vast weather data, which the government is currently attempting to gather. 

Christophe Inglin, co-founder and managing director of Phoenix Solar Asia Pacific, told the Solar Energy Southeast Asia 2014 (SESEA) conference in Bangkok earlier today that regulations are currently being reviewed to counteract the intermittent generation of solar power.

One measure being considered is the aggregation of solar generation from across the country for variable, but no longer intermittent generation, as the entire country is too large to be covered in cloud simultaneously.

The government is also in the process of creating an online PV potential map for all of Singapore using GPS mapping. Members of the public will be able to go online and find out the PV potential of their rooftops.

Solar could play a significant contribution in Singapore, due to its high population for the region, of 6.3 million inhabitants.

“Industry, academia and government are all embracing solar,” in Singapore said Inglin, with many training and university courses available in solar PV.

The commercial rooftop sector has “completely taken off with people saying put as much [solar] as you can [onto the roof],” Inglin added.

Due to the free market ideology of the government there, Singapore is the only subsidy-free solar market in Southeast Asia. “Singapore is Asia’s first ‘natural’ solar market,” said Inglin, “Solar is already cost effective.” 

For rooftop solar only, electricity prices are completely unsubsidised with clear regulations. Inglin said leasing and hire models have interested banks, and with low interest rates PV financing is not much of a hurdle in rooftop solar deployment.

Explaining further, Inglin told the audience of SESEA 2014, that households pay a flat rate tariff for electricity, so any solar energy is sold to a centralised grid ‘pool’, with solar users reimbursed for energy generation at the retail tariff, minus five cents for grid costs. Although due to most residents living in tall towers blocks condominium with little roof space, solar is mostly on commercial rooftops.

Singapore has a stable grid, although it is very centralised with all generation fed into the ‘pool’, before being bid for by an amalgamation of private and public companies, known as GENCO, with prices updated every half an hour.

Inglin said that although there is space for 6GW of ground-mount solar, 2GW or 4.8% of generation, will come from solar farms by 2025 in Singapore.

Inglin also added that although uneconomical, storage is picking up as the market is completely unregulated and storage makes sense for PV owners with electric vehicles.

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