Thursday, February 22, 2007

Solar power in Singapore

It seems rather strange to me that given the plenty of sunshine (12 hours of it everyday, 365 days a year) that Singapore receives that solar power use is so sparse. Of course, we have to bear in mind that land space in Singapore is rather limited, so it is impossible to have tracts of photovoltaic cell-covered solar farms in Singapore. Still, I do think that Singapore ought to take advantage of its plentiful sunshine. For example, when I was staying with my relatives in Shanghai some years back, I noticed that solar-heated water was used in many of the older apartment blocks. My uncle told me that they have been around since the 1980s and are pretty common.

This is simple technology that really ought to be used in Singapore. An electric water heater has a power rating of 600 to 1000 watts and is a significant component of the average household's electrical bills. One can easily imagine the kind of savings that the average household can have, especially those living in landed estates. Perhaps, these things can be mounted on the roofs of HDB blocks? Maybe. Anyway, I guess not too many people in tropical Singapore like to use hot water to bathe...

Also, photovoltaic technology is something that Singapore does have an advantage given its long-existing microelectronic industry. The science behind photovoltaic cells is very much similar to the science of semiconductors (mostly silicon wafers) - it's all about the control of electron transport in doped semiconductors. Furthermore, the standard of purity for photovoltaic cells is a little more relaxed. You don't need that clean a piece of silicon wafer to manufacture photovoltaic thin films. The problem in adopting photovoltaic technology is largely one of cost. Once a sufficiently cost-effective silicon-based method of manufacturing is found, I predict that solar power generation will take off. It's hard to imagine using more exotic materials for solar power generation given the vast amount of panels that have to be used in mass solar energy generation. If photovoltaic techonology is ever to be adopted en masse, common sense tells us that it has to be silicon wafer-based technology.

Even in Singapore where solar energy cannot be harvested on a large scale, we stand to gain by promoting silicon-based solar power generation given our existing microelectronic capabilities. Seriously, this is something Singapore ought to look into.

1 comment:

Cloud107 said...

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