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Solar tech has begun taking over Singapore. Google it and you’d get a wave of results on how people are turning their homes into solar energy mines.

One engineering student, Tan Yi Hao, has even been harnessing solar energy to charge his gadgets for the past four years via the USB ports. At the same time, he also sold his solar sets online, including to Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

Tan Yi Hao and his portable solar kit / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

But while his is an A4 size-panel, there’s one panel in Singapore that’s actually 10,000 meter² large and is the world’s largest floating solar panel.

Floating atop Tengeh Reservoir, this solar panel generates enough electricity to power 250 4-room HDBs for an entire year. Although a trial for now, this ginormous solar panel represents a larger goal in sustainable energy and water and land constraints.

By building the panel atop a water body, no land space is taken up, and the water body also keeps the panel cool – ensuring that the panel works efficiently.

We managed to snag an exclusive interview with one of the engineers behind this installation – here’s what we learnt.

Passion For The Sun

A graduate of Electrical Engineering from Australia, James is instrumental in designing the solar panel systems. In his capacity as the Technical Sales Manager at REC, he also assists in other roles such as procuring materials.

James Ong / Image Credit: REC

“We work very closely with the teams across the countries,” he says, as each team understands their own country best.

“Working alone is definitely very slow. Different people see things from different perspectives, and they might help you in resolving problems.”

Still there are times when James found himself caught.

“I lacked experience to design a panel so there was a lot of learning on-the-job. I got to talk technology, and learned how to design systems in the most efficient and cost effective ways. There were lowest points when I couldn’t get the systems I wanted so I’d spent many nights investigating the entire system.”

But nothing can set him back. With each problem solved, he finds himself gaining new knowledge to be more effective and efficient.

I’m a good example of how no obstacles can get in your way. As long as you have the can-do attitude, you’re willing to learn more than what you’re required, nothing will stop you from excelling.

“Passion also influences what I do,” he says, and it shows in his drive and attitude – factors that help him inspire others, especially the staff he leads.

Personal Motivations

His interest in his job does not stem from his work alone, as James reveals a personal motivation.

The world is burning fossil fuels for energy, but this emits mass amounts of carbon dioxide, contributing to global warming. In contrast, solar panels convert natural resources into electricity without gaseous by-products.

“When I studied in Australia, I saw many of the renewable energy projects the government is implementing.”

This is what he hopes to see in Singapore, and the situation is already changing.

Our capacity for solar energy has quadrupled in the past 3 years with more solar panels affixed to HDB roofs. Even the renovated Bukit Panjang Community Club has 150 panels on its own.

Household panels make up less than 5 per cent of total installations, likely due to costs. But as prices come down, James expects them to gain traction.

In the meantime, he participate in roadshows to teach about going green and renewable energy.

I want to educate people, maybe convert them to using solar panels. Even if they don’t implement them, at least they are better informed about sustainable energy.

At home, James also champions going green.

“When I was a student, I took part in recycling projects where you segregated the trash.”

“Today, I also educate my children to make sure they do this. When they buy something, they consider what kind of energy went into making it.”

“If we can buy a product made from renewable energy, we will definitely do it even though it may be pricier.”

A Renewable Future

“It’s important we prevent global temperatures from rising further. I want to ensure our children and future generations will be able to experience what we have,” he describes.

“There is a huge potential in solar tech, and I think Singapore is moving in that right direction.”

The engineering sector in Singapore is constantly expanding and on the lookout for individuals who are passionate about engineering the future.

Please visit engineroom.sg to explore career opportunities in engineering.

Featured Image Credit: Solar Energy Research Institute Singapore

This article is written in collaboration with engineroom.sg.

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© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)