Published on 08 Dec 2023

Running Singapore’s Kusu Island with just solar power

The team from ERI@N and SLA photographed in front of the photovoltaic panels on Kusu Island, Singapore

The Singapore Land Authority signed a research collaboration agreement with Energy Research Institute @ Nanyang Technological University (ERI@N) in 2019 for the research, design, and deployment of customized renewable energy systems at the offshore islands, at a project cost of $2 million.

Deployment started on Kusu Island in 2020, for the deployment of a solar-powered seawater reverse osmosis desalination system (enough to cover the daily water consumption of 140 people); and a 140kW solar photovoltaic system, which is 780sqm in size (about the size of two basketball courts) to transform Kusu Island into a self-sufficient island generating its own power and water supply. This is the first off-grid solar to power desalination system project on the Southern Islands.

Scientists from ERI@N first started the project in 2020, analysing the energy and water demand of Kusu Island through energy audits, followed by thorough Environmental Impact Assessment studies, which cumulated into a container-sized water desalination plant, powered by solar energy. 

One of the end results is a 140-kilowatt peak solar power plant capable of generating over 230 megawatt hours (MWh) annually – enough to power around 52 four-room HDB flats– and can reduce an estimated 96 metric tons of carbon emissions per year.

The efficiency of the lagoon-based solar panels were even more efficient than conventional roof-top-based solar panels, performing some 10 to 15 per cent better due to the cooling effect of the water underneath the panels. 

This project is a part of NTU’s 2025 Strategic plan, which aims to tackle some of humanity’s greatest challenges, such as climate change and sustainability. The project aims to demonstrate scalable technologies that can help transform remote Singapore islands into zero-energy sites, aligning with Singapore’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

The goal is to demonstrate that it is possible to have sufficient clean drinking water as well as renewable energy, to meet the needs of the temple and its residents on Kusu island, allowing for sustainable development of the community.

In addition to the on-site large-scale prototype, the team has also implemented sophisticated remote monitoring technologies, allowing the renewable-powered desalination system to be controlled from the NTU Smart Campus, located in Jurong West.

With the success of this project, NTU will continue to pioneer sustainable solutions as part of its Sustainability Manifesto, by developing more projects that will help remote islands in Singapore transform into Zero Energy communities. 

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