Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Solar is here, some reasons why businesses are still not jumping on board.

There is a low of talk about sustainability in Singapore, Eco seems to be the buzzword, but in terms of action, with such a small land size without natural resources, and long hours of daylight, it totally makes sense for more businesses to go Solar.

However, in Singapore, any PV system exceeding 1MW must obtain a generating licence from EMA and register with the Energy Market Company as a market participant, even if all solar electricity is consumed on site. The registration is very complex, and thus may be costly to implement.

Since 2008, you are allowed to sell back to the grid, there are available technologies to cost efficiently do so in US and Europe, but the market mechanism in Singapore makes it almost impossible to happen.

As Singapore is largely dependent on fossil fuel business, with oil refineries, transporting and repairing of oil tankers, manufacturing of oil rigs, research and process of oils and plastics, all contributing to a significant chunk of the GDP, the oil and gas companies do have good friends in the government to slow the progress of solar.

Every year since 2008, there has been much talks, but till 2016, I've not seen much progress on businesses going solar. Here are some reasons.

1) Many businesses do not own the facility. When you lease the facility or land for 30 years, using capital to invest on something that does not really impact the business is what many companies do not even consider.

2) There is still much laws and regulation when you generate significant amount of energy. Even when the laws change, the perception is still, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR ME TO DO IT.

3) Is is complex to sell back to the grid. While getting a battery is an option, for many businesses with large roofs, they WILL produce more energy they can use and it would be a good idea to sell it back to the grid as they may need to buy some energy to use at night. Instead of paying to store, using the grid to store is a good solution. The mechanism to sell back to the grid is not so transparent.

4) Lack of awareness and knowledge that Solar Energy is 30% the cost of 2008. Yes, the idea of you getting ROI in 10 years does not sound sexy, but today, solar panel setups can get you back the cost in 3 - 5 years as technology improves. The panels are more efficient, batteries are cheaper, and the cost will only go down with more research and development.

5) Everyone takes energy for granted. There are not much blackouts in Singapore. Energy is relatively stable here and people do not think about sustainability because everything is out of sight and out of mind. There is no disasters, and what goes on, burning fossil fuels to generate electricity is also not seen by the public. However, if you live on the west side of Singapore, sometimes you do smell unpleasant odors from the burning of trash and fuel byproducts.

Well if you want to do something about it, there are many options to harvest the free solar energy.

Think portable. Even living in an apartment, you do get 6 hours of sun? Most of the time, this is enough to charge a portable solar device. This also mean that you can go out off the grid while charging your devices like tablets and phones.

Panels come in various sizes and attaching it to your powerbanks, you get power when you need them, and when traveling, you don't need to bring any adapters anymore for your all important mobile phone.

You might even consider a portable battery and solar panel. I've a set up for under $1,000 which consists of a 120W solar panel and a 400WH battery. This device powers my led lamps, fans, router, laptop, etc. With this device, nearly everything in my room runs off the battery which is in turn charged by the sun.

This device is also portable, and I can use this outside during a BBQ or an outdoor event as the battery only weights 6.5kg and the panel about 1kg. If you want to bring your electric guitar outside to jam, perhaps with all your speakers and amps, you may want to bring your own power device from now?

The future is here, we can all play out part to use renewable resources. I think it is time to look into solar energy, whether your government want to talk about it or not.

-- Iron Bowl

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