(EnergyAsia, November 18 2011, Friday) — Singapore has moved forward with its plans for using smart grids and renewable energy sources to develop a robust and efficient future electricity system.

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*STAR) has launched the nation’s S$38-million Experimental Power Grid Centre (EPGC) to support the development of future smart power grids, technologies and applications as part of Singapore’s goal to develop a smart energy economy. (US$1=S$1.3).

Earlier, the Energy Market Authority (EMA) awarded a contract to a local consortium comprising Daily Life Renewable Energy Pte Ltd (DLRE) and OKH Holdings Pte Ltd (OKH) to design, build, own and operate the test-bedding project on the island of Pulau Ubin located off the northeastern corner of the main island.

EPGC

Located on Jurong Island, the EPGC has the capacity to produce up to 1 MW of electricity, making it one of the largest experimental power grid facilities in the world.

The EPGC said it has signed an agreement with SP PowerGrid and three separate MOUs with Housing Development Board (HDB), Meidensha Corp Japan and National Instruments to undertake research on renewable energy integration, advanced high efficiency inverters and smart grid control that will lead to robust, cutting-edge solutions that can be quickly adopted and implemented.

The organisations aim to roll out smart grid systems that are stable, efficient and help reduce the cost of electricity for consumers.

EPGC will collaborate with SP PowerGrid to improve the reliability of the grid to ensure reliability and quality of electricity delivery while HDB is interested to integrate renewable energy use for public housing.

“SP PowerGrid is pleased to work with EPGC to explore and develop new smart grid technologies that are robust and yet cost-effective for our operations,” said Sim Kwong Mian, SP PowerGrid’s managing director.

EPGC and Meidensha, a leading Japanese manufacturer in the heavy electric industry, will jointly research to develop high efficiency control technology for advanced medium voltage inverters used in industrials pumps and fans.

US-based company National Instruments will collaborate with EPGC to develop advanced measurement and control technologies for smart grids with focus on distribution automation and real-time controllers to enable renewable energy penetration.

These latest public-private partnerships add to existing collaborations forged with Vestas and Rolls Royce at the centre’s groundbreaking in July 2010.

Vestas, a world leader in wind technology, has completed a project to develop technologies to enhance the capabilities of wind turbines while Rolls Royce, a global power systems provider, has begun research on a marine grid system.

EPGC said it is also working with local stakeholders including the EMA, Economic Development Board (EDB), JTC Corp and National Environment Agency to create Singapore’s smart grid value chain from R&D initiation to commercial test-bedding and eventual technology adoption.

At its official opening early this month, S. Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade & Industry, said:

“Smart grids will pave the way for a competitive energy market. Its technologies will enable us to offer services that allow businesses and households to choose their electricity retailers and packages according to their needs.”

Lim Chuan Poh, A*STAR’s chairman, said: “The launch of EPGC is timely with the increasing global demand for renewable energy and innovative energy transmission and networks.  EPGC provides a unique research platform for public-private partnerships to develop future energy and smart grid solutions.”

Chee Hong Tat, EMA’s chief executive, said: “EMA will continue to work closely with EPGC to conduct research and analysis on smart grid technologies. Examples of collaboration projects include the Intelligent Energy System pilot and the Pulau Ubin micro-grid Test-bed. These efforts will help to enhance our grid operations, which would support the deployment of intermittent renewable energy sources and provide greater scope for consumers to reduce their energy consumption.”

Ashwin Khambadkone, EPGC’s Programme Director, said: “The EPGC focuses on research to develop solutions for quick adoption. It is designed to be flexible to allow various power networks to be configured within the facility. In addition, EPGC can facilitate research in the integration of renewables with its unique ability to replicate the power output of renewable energy sources at any time and any place through its wind turbine and solar PV emulators.

“At one-MW, power sufficient for 500 households, near grid-like conditions can be created in EPGC, making it a preferred platform for researchers, industry and public agencies to find solutions for a cleaner, more efficient and reliable electric power.”

Micro-grid test-bedding project

On Pulau Ubin, solar power and biodiesel will replace diesel generators to supply electricity to some residents from end-2012 as part of a government initiative to develop a micro-grid system.

For their electricity supply, the residents currently rely on noisy smoky diesel generators that are expensive to operate.

The EMA said the grid will provide a cheaper and reliable source of electricity using clean energy resources such as biodiesel and solar energy.

The consortium will supply electricity at less than S$0.80 per kWh, compared to the price of more than S$1 per kWh which some end-users currently pay for using diesel generators.

The EMA, which declined to reveal the cost of the contract, said the grid operator will need its permission to raise the electricity tariff beyond S$0.80 per kWh.

Furthermore, the EMA said the project, which was announced in 2009, is scalable, enabling end-users to consider higher load electrical appliances such as refrigerators and air-conditioners. It will also allow businesses to expand their operations and operating hours.

According to DLRE executive director Markson Tang, whose company will jointly fund the project with the EMA, has implemented more than 40 micro-grid projects in countries around the region. DLRE secured the contract against a field of strong competitors that included Sembcorp Utilities, Tuas Power and General Electric.

EMA’s chief executive Chee Hong Tat said the project help Singapore prepare to expand renewable energy sources in its future energy mix, and even export its know-how to markets in the region.