Singapore has built an enormous floating solar platform to test the potential of solar energy in the island state.

The platform, measuring 1 hectare (10,000 square metre) in size, will be used to test the performance and cost-efficiency of 10 different photovoltaic systems over the next six months, it has been announced.

The study will “determine the optimal system for Singapore and to study the environmental impact of such systems on our water bodies”, said Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Masagos Zulkifli, in October.

The two best systems will be chosen for the second phase of the trial. “If this pilot successfully establishes the economic viability and environmental sustainability of floating solar PV systems, Singapore will explore the large-scale deployment of these systems,” he added.

The country has already set aside large swathes of land for water reservoirs. The success of this study could help the island state make better use of this land. Currently, Singapore generates 90% of its energy from natural gas.

The project is led by Economic Development Board and water agency PUB, and managed by the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore.

“As a highly dense city state with limited space for solar deployment, Singapore is placing emphasis on building up urban solar capabilities which include floating solar as a key focus area,” said Mr Goh Chee Kiong, executive director for cleantech at EDB. Singapore also wants to be a “living lab for companies to test and commercialise” their solar energy solutions.

This is said to be currently the largest floating solar energy test-bed. The world’s largest floating solar plant is being built in Japan, measuring 180,000 square metres and to be completed in March 2018.

The plant will provide enough energy to run 4,970 households on average, according to Kyocera, the company building the plant.

Image by the National University of Singapore