• In order to help reduce emissions, Singapore has unveiled one of the world's largest floating solar panel farms.
  • This project is part of a goal to quadruple solar energy production by 2025 and make its water system entirely powered by renewable energy.
  • Some experts believe that the solar farm's reduction of carbon emissions could be equivalent to taking 7,000 cars off the road.
  • PUB, Singapore's national water agency, carried out an assessment which ensured the project wouldn't affect water or wildlife quality.

Singapore unveiled one of the world's largest floating solar panel farms, spanning an area equivalent to 45 football fields and producing enough electricity to power the island's five water treatment plants.

The project is part of efforts by the land-scarce Southeast Asian city-state to meet a goal of quadrupling its solar energy production by 2025 to help tackle climate change.

Located on a reservoir in western Singapore, the 60 megawatt-peak solar photovoltaic (PV) farm has been built by a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sembcorp Industries (SCIL.SI).

The floating solar panel farm could help to reduce carbon emissions by about 32 kilotonnes annually, comparable to taking 7,000 cars off the roads, according to a joint statement by the company and Singapore's national water agency PUB.

As opposed to conventional rooftop solar panels, floating ones perform between 5% to 15% better because of the cooling effect of the water, and are not impacted by shading from other buildings, according to a presentation on the project.

The electricity generated from the 122,000 floating solar panels on the 45-hectare (111.2 acres) site should make Singapore one of the few countries in the world to have a water treatment system fully powered by sustainable energy.

To allay concerns about the environmental impact of such projects, PUB said an assessment was conducted before installing the solar panels to ensure there was no significant impact on wildlife or to water quality.

"It was carefully designed to improve airflow and allow sunlight passing through the water (to reach aquatic life)," said Jen Tan, a regional head at Sembcorp Industries.

What's the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?

Moving to clean energy is key to combating climate change, yet in the past five years, the energy transition has stagnated.

Energy consumption and production contribute to two-thirds of global emissions, and 81% of the global energy system is still based on fossil fuels, the same percentage as 30 years ago. Plus, improvements in the energy intensity of the global economy (the amount of energy used per unit of economic activity) are slowing. In 2018 energy intensity improved by 1.2%, the slowest rate since 2010.

Effective policies, private-sector action and public-private cooperation are needed to create a more inclusive, sustainable, affordable and secure global energy system.

Benchmarking progress is essential to a successful transition. The World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index, which ranks 115 economies on how well they balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability, shows that the biggest challenge facing energy transition is the lack of readiness among the world’s largest emitters, including US, China, India and Russia. The 10 countries that score the highest in terms of readiness account for only 2.6% of global annual emissions.

To future-proof the global energy system, the Forum’s Shaping the Future of Energy and Materials Platform is working on initiatives including, Systemic Efficiency, Innovation and Clean Energy and the Global Battery Alliance to encourage and enable innovative energy investments, technologies and solutions.

Additionally, the Mission Possible Platform (MPP) is working to assemble public and private partners to further the industry transition to set heavy industry and mobility sectors on the pathway towards net-zero emissions. MPP is an initiative created by the World Economic Forum and the Energy Transitions Commission.

Is your organisation interested in working with the World Economic Forum? Find out more here.

The solar panels are designed to last for 25 years and drones will be used to assist with maintenance.

Currently, there are four other floating solar panel projects underway in Singapore.