Sunseap Group is a solar energy system developer, owner, and operator in Singapore, with over 2000 megawatts (peak) of solar energy projects contracted across Asia. This week, Frank Phuan, co-founder and chief executive of Sunseap, told Reuters his company plans to build the world’s largest floating solar farm near the city of Batam in Indonesia, about 50 kilometers southeast of Singapore.
The floating photovoltaic system is expected to have a capacity of 2.2 gigawatts (peak). It will cover 1600 hectares (4000 acres) of the Duriangkang Reservoir on Batam Island and cost about $2 billion to construct. An agreement between Sundeap and the Batam Indonesia free zone authority (BP Batam) to move forward with the project was signed on July 19.
“This single project will double our entire portfolio, more importantly build our capability towards hyperscale solar and energy storage projects. Floating solar systems will go a long way to address the land constraints that urbanised parts of Southeast Asia face in tapping renewable energy,” said Phuan. Construction of the project, which will be financed through bank debt and Sunseap capital, is due to begin in 2022 and is planned for completion in 2024, the company said.
According to Sunseap, the energy generated and stored will supply non-intermittent solar energy around the clock. [That implies battery storage will be part of the project, but there is no confirmation of that in the Reuters story.] A portion of the electricity produced will be consumed within Batam, while any excess may be exported to Singapore via an undersea cable. At the present time, Batam has a total power generation capacity of 540 MW from gas, steam, and diesel plants. “This investment by Sunseap will be a timely boost for Batam’s industries as they seek to reduce the carbon footprint of their operations,” Muhammad Rudi, chairman of BP Batam, said in the statement.
In densely populated areas of southeast Asia, authorities would like to have access to more renewable energy but often do not have room available to mount solar farms on land. Floating solar not only solves that problem, but is also somewhat more efficient (about 5%) than land-based systems because the water beneath the panels helps keep them cool when exposed to strong sunlight.
The US Department of Energy says combining floating solar with hydroelectric installations could supply 40% of the world’s electrical energy needs. Floating solar also eliminates the NIMBY problem. People who might object strongly to cutting down trees or converting farmland to solar are apt to be less concerned by plans to cover a local reservoir with solar panels.
Is floating solar the answer to all solar power needs? Of course not. But if it’s more efficient and has fewer siting and permitting issues, it deserves to be a significant part of the renewable energy conversation.