China’s leading nuclear power company has greened its image by deploying a rooftop CSP-biomass hybrid plant to power its Singapore headquarters. For Singapore, a net-energy importer, this could herald a new energy era.
By Paul French in Shanghai
China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Corporation (CGNPC), the PRC’s largest single nuclear power company and reactor operator, started construction this month on an integrated biomass-solar power generation plant in the South East Asian island state of Singapore.
Senior Vice-President of Guangzhou-based CGNPC Mr Tan Jiansheng said that the project represents an investment of approximately US$33.6 million for Phase I. The plant is fuelled by wood and horticultural waste and includes a solar installation on the building’s rooftop. Phase I is expected to generate 10MWand be completed by November 2013. Details of any potential Phase II have not yet been announced.
The plant is being integrated into CGNPC’s new regional headquarters building in Singapore. CGNPC aims to use this HQ to win business in South East Asia with both neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as nearby Vietnam, all of which are looking to build civilian nuclear power plants and are actively considering Chinese reactor options.
Singapore: gateway to cleantech
This facility is the first overseas project of its kind to be developed and implemented by CGNPC. While the company has developed the technology in-house, it has yet to announce plans to roll it out on a commercial scale. Instead, it appears to remain focused on its core business, nuclear power. However, CGNPC has previously dabbled in solar, wind and hydro, so it is likely that they will add this technology offering to their portfolio at some point in the future.
Singapore is home to the nuclear company’s regional headquarters. The company’s decision to build its HQ there and to the showcase biomass-solar plant, confirms Singapore's strategic position as a gateway for a growing number of PRC companies in Asia Pacific and South East Asia into the region’s clean energy markets. Tan Jiansheng also pointed out that this biomass plant is the first biomass project CGNPC has undertaken either domestically or internationally.
Singapore has been keen to encourage inward investors to include green projects and sustainability into their expansion plans. Indeed, all new buildings in Singapore must now have green credentials and the island’s government, under the auspices of the Singapore Economic Development Board (Singapore’s government planning body), has established the Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC) to oversee this.
Most new buildings now typically incorporate hanging gardens, water recycling features, electricity saving devices, smart meters and/or some form of solar power. However, CGNPC’s biomass and solar plant is a considerable step further than most have taken in terms of ambition and investment, Mr Tan Choon Shian, the acting managing director of the Singapore Economic Development Board, told the Chinese media.
Optimal conditions for CSP
CGNPC’s biomass-solar power plant project is an interesting development in a number of ways. Firstly biomass powered solar is a relatively under-developed alternative energy technology in Singapore or anywhere else, for that matter.
Singapore’s geographic location on the equator; its year-round sunshine, and a complete lack of natural resources for energy generation such as coal or oil, make solar energy an attractive option. Singapore has rolled out a variety of solar projects and founded the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) at the National University of Singapore.
Additionally, the project is interesting in that it represents for CGNPC a corporate social responsibility (CSR) project - something Chinese corporations are not particularly known for, either within China or internationally. Clearly this project is part of a move by well-funded and internationally prominent Chinese corporation to green its image.
There is a question mark over the project in terms of how much wood and horticulture waste the plant will require to function. Singapore is a small (just
274 square miles) and extremely densely populated island and while it has some agriculture (only approximately 3% of Singapore’s total land area is used for agriculture now) and forest/jungle (primary forest now covers just 0.2% of Singapore) it is not immediately apparent this will yield overly much biomass material.
According to Singapore’s National Environment Agency (SNEA), the bulk of biomass comes from combustible, non-recoverable, non-reusable or non-recyclable waste. Part of this waste is recovered at landfills to generate electricity, which is fed into Singapore’s electricity grid. SNEA says that the biomass in Singapore’s municipal waste is composed mainly of wood waste, horticultural waste, food waste and paper waste.
In this sense perhaps biomass solar power plants are more obviously suited to neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia who both have substantial reserves of forest and jungle to provide biomass, and are both areas of agriculture, both small scale holdings that could supply local smaller biomass plants and large scale agribusiness, such as palm oil plantations, that could provide large volumes of biomass suitable materials. Indeed Singapore’s biomass projects to date have largely been offshore.
The most recent can be found on Jurong Island, an artificial island and industrial park located to the southwest of Singapore, which uses wood biomass to generate approximately 22 tons of process steam per hour, according to its operators Sembcorp Industries, a Singaporean energy and water conglomerate. Having just opened in April 2012, Sembcorp’s Jurong project is Singapore’s first waste-to-energy facility, though there is no solar element to the project.
The CGNPC integrated biomass-solar power plant has attracted a lot of interest in Singapore regarding the possibilities for urban-based concentrated solar power utilising relatively limited biomass results. It is a project many are watching with interest to see how well it works as a biomass project on a densely-populated, urbanised island.
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