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Asia Minute: Singapore Experiments with Floating Solar Panels


The International Energy Agency says renewable sources of energy now have the capacity to produce more electricity than coal. In a new report, the group also reports half a million solar panels were installed around the world every day last year.  The news comes as researchers launch a new solar project in Singapore.  HPR’s Bill Dorman has details in today’s Asia Minute.

The world’s largest floating test bed of solar panels has been powered up this week in Singapore.  It’s an experimental operation.  The Straits Times reports ten different photovoltaic systems will be evaluated…stretching over nearly two and a half acres of water.

It’s a project with a price tag of about $8 million US dollars—set up to compare the performance of various solar power systems.  Eight different companies are involved—from huge multinational firms based in Japan and Europe to local small and medium-sized enterprises.

Over the next six months, each of the systems will be monitored for output and efficiency….and authorities hope to channel their power into Singapore’s electricity grid.  Two of the systems will be chosen for the next level of testing at higher levels of use.

Floating solar panels are a relatively new idea—but are already in use from the United States to the United Kingdom and from Japan to the Maldives.  They currently float atop water in ponds, lagoons and reservoirs.  Backers say floating solar power systems can free up land in areas where it’s scarce…as well as providing a natural way to cool the panels.  Current challenges include dealing with corrosion---while future projects will explore using floating panels on open ocean water.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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