20 November 2009

Powering up Pulau Ubin: what wild effects?

How will plans to bring renewable energy to Pulau Ubin affect the shores and wildlife there? For example, will cheap electricity result in disruptions such as excessive lighting? Marcus Chua's study suggests that night activities and unregulated night walks are among the threats to the Greater mousedeer, which he recently rediscovered on Ubin.
Will the alternative energies impact our shores? In particular, technologies such as algae-based biofuels and power generation from waves. Wind turbines can also affect bats, birds and other flying creatures.

Here's a summary of some published details about the project.

The project comprises five inter-connected grids serving Pulau Ubin's north, south, east, west and jetty regions. It will cover the 100 inhabitants, small businesses, restaurants and the outdoor training camp Outward Bound Singapore.

The micro-grids will rely on renewable energy such as solar, biofuel, and micro wind turbines. It will be an intelligent power grid which will get around uncertain and patchy power supply, e.g., if the wind dies down. The Ubin grid will be the first to pull and redistribute electricity for a confined area.

The project is intended to supply the Ubin community, as well as to testbed clean technology. Experts said the technology for such micro-grid projects could be exported and implemented in other parts of the region.

The Energy Market Authority (EMA) will accept "expression of interest" in this project over the next month. The first phase covering the jetty area is expected to start in 2010. Each grid is estimated to take about two years to complete.

The islanders now live 'off-grid' and rely on their own diesel power generators. Pulau Ubin does not draw electricity from the country's main power grid because it has been too expensive to lay transmission cables for the low demand there.

Mr Robert Teo of the National Parks Board which manages Ubin, said NParks would need to see a development plan to assess the impact of the grid on Ubin's plants and animals, including those on its Chek Jawa intertidal flats.

Last November, The Energy Market Authority (EMA) announced plans to embark on a project to turn Pulau Ubin into a model 'green island' powered entirely by clean and renewable energy.
At that time, a long list of potential technologies were considered, including solar, wind, marine ('waves'), biomass (such as solid waste and algae), biodiesel and bioethanol, hydrogen and fuel cells, microturbine.

There was an assurance that the technologies adopted would be those that "best integrate into the island's natural environment".

A tender for a six-month consultancy study was called, slated for completion in May 09. It was to look at how much energy is needed by residents on the 10 sq km island, and the most cost-effective combination of renewable energy technologies that can be used.

EMA sees the project to transform part of Pulau Ubin into a model 'green' island as boosting Singapore's ambition to be a global test-bedding site for new energy technologies.

Articles on the Pulau Ubin power project
Some articles on impact of green technologies on biodiversity

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