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New Tech Boosts Energy Efficiency of District Cooling Systems in Singapore

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Researchers in Singapore demonstrated that a new invention that improves the energy efficiency of District Cooling Systems (DCS) could enhance the energy-carrying capacity by up to three times as compared to a conventional chilled water storage system, and yield more than 10% in cost savings annually.

This Thermal Energy Storage (TES) technology solution uses a new Phase-Change Material (PCM) that can store and release cold energy as it changes between liquid and solid states. This solution was jointly designed and developed by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the project was funded by the Energy Market Authority (EMA). As part of the Energy Resilience Grant Call by EMA, S$15 million in grants were awarded in 2018 to seven energy innovations to strengthen the resilience of Singapore’s power system and energy markets.

The close collaboration between industry, the research community and the government has enabled the development of this innovative solution to enhance the efficiency and resilience of our energy sector. EMA is pleased to have supported this project which provides a more energy efficient solution to meet the substantial amount of energy use for cooling in Singapore’s warm tropical climate. Through such new technologies and innovations, we can build a more sustainable energy future for Singapore.

– Mr Ralph Foong, Deputy Chief Executive of the Energy Planning and Development Division at EMA

The NUS research team has also developed a lab-based cold energy recovery system that harnesses cold energy, which is released as a by-product when liquefied natural gas is converted back into its gaseous state for electricity generation. Cold energy recovered can be stored and released, similar to an energy storage system to balance energy demand and supply when needed. An example is the balancing of intermittent output from renewable energy sources like solar so as to maintain the reliability and resilience of Singapore’s power grid.

TES technology can be likened to a battery that can store thermal energy and release it at the desired time. Incorporating the new TES technology in district cooling plants offers immense potential for the success of low energy designs to meet Singapore’s cooling needs. This innovation marks a significant milestone in our progress towards a sustainable future.

The novel TES solution will make Singapore meet its cooling needs in a more energy-efficient manner through a new and better thermal energy storage material, as well as the recovery and use of cold energy which would otherwise have been lost. This innovation can also potentially help to alleviate intermittency in the electrical grid when more renewable sources are integrated.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, The National University of Singapore (NUS) recently established the Institute for Functional Intelligent Materials (I-FIM), the world’s first institute devoted to the design, synthesis, and application of Functional Intelligent Materials (FIMs). The I-FIM will be Singapore’s sixth research centre of excellence (RCE), and the fourth hosted by NUS.

The Research Innovation and Enterprise Council formed the research centre of excellence scheme in 2007 to attract research talent, improve graduate education in Singapore universities, and training quality research personnel.

Singapore’s innovation ecosystem, which includes high-quality infrastructure, a growing pool of dynamic start-ups, well-trained talent, and strong government support, is a major draw for global businesses. Because of these characteristics, Singapore has become one of the most innovative places to do business. According to the annual Global Innovation Index 2017, it was ranked first among Asian nations for innovation, and it also held the top global position for innovation input, where the quality of human capital and research was a key pillar.


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