The city of Las Vegas officially achieved a milestone last week, when Boulder Solar 1 — a solar power plant on the edge of Boulder City, Nevada — went live. According to the Huffington Post, the plant’s acres of solar panels will provide 100% of the city’s municipal power, excluding commercial and residential buildings.
In the region, with 20 per cent of South-east Asia’s population lacking access to electricity, microgrids are looked upon as a viable alternative power infrastructure, and Singapore aspires to achieve regional leadership in this area – hence the deployment of a microgrid test-bed at Semakau Island to develop and demonstrate microgrid technologies.
The initiative by the Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Renewable Energy Integration Demonstrator-Singapore (REIDS) is testing how well different energy sources can operate well together. The first of four microgrid facilities have just been deployed at Semakau Landfill, which will power the National Environment Agency’s infrastructure on the island as well as fish hatcheries and nurseries there.
This involves the installation of over 3,000sqm of photovoltaic panels – to generate 400kW peak of power – as well as a large-scale energy storage system. “A large challenge will be how (we can) accommodate more intermittent sources like wind and solar energy in energy storage, as we want to consume the energy as it suits us,” said Prof Hans Bjorn Puttgen, senior director of the NTU’s Energy Research Institute.
Work to build the other three microgrids will start at the end of this year, and they are projected to be operational by the third quarter of next year. The wind turbines and tidal machines to harness the energy from the waves will be introduced later in 2018.
Being only a one-megawatt system, Prof Puttgen emphasised that the “key application” for the microgrid system is not in local use, but that the hybrid microgrid can possibly become a model for “isolated villages and islands” and “remote areas that are not connected to a regular major power station” in neighbouring countries.
- Why is it important to develop alternative sources of energy?
- If big changes are difficult, what can people in your community do to change the energy consumption patterns?
Considering that the average residential utility customer in the US consumed 10,932 kWh of energy in 2014, that means a WindTree could provide approximately up to 18% of an American household’s annual electricity.
The WindTree — which is roughly 30 feet tall — is designed to generate electricity for an individual user or function, rather than feed power into a larger grid. Instead, it connects directly to a particular house or system, much like a solar panel. And since it can be placed in close proximity to whatever it power, less of the energy generated gets lost as the electricity travels through the grid.
The WindTree’s design means it’s unlikely that a forest of them would ever be built. But a single tree could be used to power a charging station (for personal devices, bikes, or cars), keep municipal lights on in a public plaza, or be installed on a campus.
- What are the uses of this?
- What are some problems of this?
Unlike fossil fuel energy, which produces 90% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, wind turbines do not pollute the air. The potential for offshore and onshore wind energy generation is huge in the US — the cost of deploying wind energy has dropped by 90 percent since the 1980s, thanks to strides in wind technology and policy, according to the US Department of Energy.
- What are some reasons why alternative forms of energy are used less than fossil fuels?
- What are some advantages of wind energy?