Sunflower Dreams: Can Solar Panels Power Singapore's Energy Needs?

Singapore's quest for abundant solar energy faces challenges like rooftop limitations and energy storage, but a diverse energy mix offers hope.

Picture Singapore as a lush, energetic garden, where each energy source is a colourful and unique flower. Among these flowers, solar panels glisten like sunflowers in the height of summer. So, how many of these "sunflowers" do we need to plant to cover Singapore's energy needs? That's the million-dollar question, folks!

In a nutshell, Singapore needs about 50 TWh of electricity every year. Solar panels provide 200 kWh/m² per year in Asia. Buckle up, because we're going to need to cover 303 km² with solar panels - that's 40% of the territory. It sounds huge, but don't worry! It's less than the area occupied by buildings in Singapore. Not bad, right?

You might think that by installing solar panels on half the roofs, we would generate enough electricity to meet annual demand. But alas, some challenges stand in our sunlit path:

  1. The orientation of panels is crucial, and many roofs aren't ideally oriented.

  2. Roofs often have obstacles, such as chimneys and antennas (gotta catch our favourite shows!).

  3. Some flat roofs are already being used for other installations (like secret gardens and BBQ spots).

  4. Part of the roofs are constantly in the shade (thanks to neighbouring skyscrapers).

These challenges don't stop us from installing solar panels on some roofs, but we also need to consider energy storage. The sun shines during the day (well, except when it rains), but we also need electricity at night. To store this energy, we can use hydrogen or lead-acid batteries. In both cases, there are energy losses, and we need to factor in the energy needed to manufacture these storage devices.

Taking these factors into account, we'd need to cover between 80% and 160% of the country's surface with solar panels. It seems nearly impossible without using lithium-ion batteries for storage. But don't despair! Even if we can't generate all of Singapore's electricity with solar panels, we can still produce much more than we currently do, especially if technology continues to advance.

In conclusion, while photovoltaic solar panels can play a significant role in Singapore's electricity supply, it's unlikely they can cover the country's entire energy needs by themselves. It's like filling an entire garden with just one type of flower.

It's therefore crucial to consider a combination of renewable energy sources and work on improving storage technologies to ensure a sustainable and environmentally friendly energy future for Singapore and the rest of the world. So, get ready for an energy future as colourful and diverse as Singapore's garden itself!