In celebration of World Environment Day 2021, we showcase two SIT sustainable engineering initiatives that aim to reduce our carbon footprint.
This year, World Environment Day is centred on ecosystem restoration, or the healing of the natural environment. The extent of ecosystem degradation caused by human activities is startling – 10 million hectares of forests are lost every year and about 30% of natural freshwater ecosystems have disappeared since 1970. This call to act also underscores our reliance on nature for survival. Change can come in a myriad of ways, including educating people about nature conservation and devising greener business models. SIT takes a look at innovative ways in which we are working to green industries.
Rooftop Hydroponic Farms that Harness Solar Energy
As Singapore moves towards a more sustainable future, it has prioritised greater self-sufficiency in local food production and adoption of renewable energy resources. An SIT project is targeting both areas in the form of rooftop hydroponic farms that harvest electricity from the sun and use probiotics to better grow leafy greens and herbs.
“The project aims to address competing needs within limited land in land scarce Singapore,” said Associate Professor Steve Kardinal Jusuf (Engineering cluster), the principal investigator. “If both renewable energy and agricultural needs can co-exist together, Singapore won’t have to sacrifice one for the other.”
The three-year project, which started in December 2020, is funded by a grant from Temasek Foundation. Singapore-based agritech company Archisen is lending its expertise to the project. It provides seedlings and seed germination, and advises on the crops and plant growth.
The main challenge, said A/Prof Jusuf, is figuring out the best way to place the solar photovoltaic panels for maximum crop growth. While gaps need to be created in between the panels to allow sunlight to reach the crops below, this also means that there is a reduction in the number of panels installed to generate electricity. As such, probiotics could help to promote crop growth and yield despite less sunlight available for vegetables to grow.
The set-up of the hydroponic farm being built at SIT@Dover.
Training SMEs to be More Energy Efficient
Making businesses more energy efficient has a slew of advantages, including lower operating costs, reduced carbon emissions and a better brand image. Launched in 2019, the Energy Efficiency Technology Centre (EETC) at SIT has been helping companies discover and implement energy efficiency improvement measures, as well as build up local industrial energy efficiency capabilities. As a collaboration between SIT and the National Environment Agency (NEA), the centre also trains a pipeline of SIT engineering undergraduates and upskills existing energy efficiency practitioners in industrial energy efficiency.
The centre has made energy assessments more accessible for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which typically lack the capabilities and resources to identify and implement energy efficiency improvement measures. SMEs receive a diagnosis of their energy performance and recommendation on areas of improvement, and their staff are trained in energy assessment skills for continual improvement. So far, five assessments have been completed for companies including Far East Packaging Industrial, Aalst Chocolate, and Denka Advantech. NEA will subsequently work with the companies to support the implementation of the recommendations through the Energy Efficiency Fund.
“Energy efficiency is a least-cost measure in Singapore’s vision of a more sustainable future,” said Professor Lock Kai Sang (Engineering cluster), who helms the EETC. “Some energy efficiency measures can be implemented through changes in human behaviour and business operation, while others can be achieved by using established energy efficiency technologies.”
From left: Jeryl Yep, Research Engineer, Engineering, SIT; Joel Lai, Final Year Student, Chemical Engineering; Liau Ting Ting, Assistant Director, Applied Research, Innovation and Enterprise; Prof Lock Kai Sang, Head, EETC; Prof Tseng King Jet, Programme Leader, Engineering; Amos Ong, Year 3 Student, Electrical Power Engineering; and Steven Huang, Research Fellow, Engineering.
The EETC also launched two upskilling programmes for existing professionals this year – the Electrical Installations Audit and Analysis Programme in May and the Energy Efficiency Upskilling Programme in January. Another six more programmes are in the pipeline. Through these programmes, aspiring engineers and energy managers can train towards becoming certified Energy Efficiency Opportunity Assessors and Chartered Engineers.