Singapore Builds Floating Solar Farms to Tackle Climate Crisis

The space-starved country is anchoring over a hundred thousand panels to the seabed.
Chris Young
Artist impression of the upcoming Tengeh Reservoir solar farm.Sembcorp

Thousands of solar panels have been installed off the coast of Singapore to help the island city-state do its part to tackle the global climate crisis.

Though it is one of the world's smallest countries (Singapore is less than half the size of London), the thriving financial hub is one of the biggest per capita carbon dioxide emitters in Asia, according to a report by AFP.

One of the newly built solar farms stretches off the coast of Singapore into the Johor Strait, which separates Singapore from Malaysia.

13,000 panels are anchored to the seabed of the Johor Strait with the capacity to produce five megawatts of electricity, enough to power almost 1,500 flats for an entire year.

The panels are built in China, the world's largest solar panel manufacturer, and fastened to the seabed using chains and concrete blocks.

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

"We hope that this will set a precedent to have more floating projects in the sea in Singapore and neighboring countries."

Another still-in-development project is far larger — once completed later this year, a 122,000-panel solar farm at Tengeh Reservoir will be one of the biggest in Southeast Asia.

Developed by Sembcorp and the national water agency Public Utilities Board, the project will reportedly generate enough power to meet the energy needs of Singapore's water treatment plants.

Singapore's challenging renewable energy push

Despite its standing as a financial hub, Singapore faces an unenviable task in its implementation of renewable energies. The small country has no rivers fast enough for hydro-electricity and the wind in the region is not strong enough year-round to power turbines.

Instead, the country's government turned to solar power. Still, with its lack of land resources for solar farms, is resorting to installing the panels out at sea and on its reservoirs — an initiative that has the potential to hinder the country's shipping industry.

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"After exhausting the rooftops and the available land, which is very scarce, the next big potential is actually our water area," Jen Tan, senior vice president and head of solar in Southeast Asia at conglomerate Sembcorp Industries, told AFP.

Last month, Singapore unveiled a wide-ranging "green plan" that included measures to quadruple solar energy use to approximately two percent of the nation's power needs by 2025, and to three percent by 2030 — enough to power 350,000 households per year.

Still, critics say the country needs to do more to help fight climate change — the Climate Action Tracker, which tracks governments' commitments, classifies Singapore's targets as "highly insufficient," compared to other countries.

Singapore is, after all, at risk from rising sea levels due to the entire city-state's proximity to the ocean.

The country's position as a leading financial center and early implementor of advanced technologies also means its climate initiatives invariably set a precedent for many of the world's nations when it comes to tackling the climate crisis.

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