Singapore's smart power grids are set to be backed by the brainpower of the Experimental Power Grid Centre (EPGC) which opened yesterday.
The $38 million facility on Jurong Island recreates grid-like conditions, allowing researchers to tinker around with experimental smart grid technologies. It is capable of putting out up to 1 MW of power - enough to power 500 households.
Singapore's move into the research of such technology is an attempt to plug into the lucrative global market for smart grids, estimated to be worth US$16 billion by 2015, which implies a compound annual growth rate of about 25 per cent.
While smart grids are being looked at as viable business, their actual usage is set to be central to the energy infrastructure in Singapore.
'Smart grids will pave the way for a competitive energy market. Its technologies will enable us to offer services that allow businesses and households to choose their electricity retailers and packages according to their needs,' said S Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade & Industry at the EPGC's opening ceremony yesterday.
The smart grid being rolled out across the country promises to be one that is more stable and efficient, consequently lowering the cost of electricity for consumers.
Where the EPCG begins to approach the realm of science fiction is in its ability to test the use of renewable energy sources. The centre is equipped to test out almost every kind of renewable energy source. It has three different sorts of photovoltaic arrays for the testing of solar energy, a wind turbine emulator and battery materials used to power electric vehicles.
It can act as a massive weather simulator of sorts, mimicking the windswept conditions of a Vestas windfarm anywhere in the world, for example.
Already, the EPGC, which is based at the A*Star's Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences on Jurong Island, has several collaborations under its belt. It started one with Vestas in July last year when it broke ground on the facility. Yesterday, it brought more partners onboard, signing memorandums of agreement with the Housing Development Board (HDB), SP PowerGrid, Meidensha Corporation Japan and US-based National Instruments.
SP PowerGrid will work with the EPCG on improving the reliability of the power grid, while the HDB is using the facility to research the use of renewable energy in public housing.
The ultimate goal will go beyond merely understanding new power sources and transmission methods better. 'We need the facility to (help us to) save energy, lower our carbon footprint and to do that with a very good power quality,' said Ashwin Khambadkone, the EPGC's programme director.