Sarawak to build floating solar system on Batang Ai hydrodam

Sharbini (eighth left) flanked by Rundi on his left in a group photo with Sarawak Energy staff.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Dec 11: Sarawak Energy is planning to develop a floating solar system in Batang Ai Hydrodam and the project is expected to start in 2021.

Sarawak Energy Group chief executive officer (CEO) Datu Sharbini Suhaili explained that the system, which will be connected to the electricity grid, can generate an estimated 30 to 50 megawatts (MW) of power.

“The solar panels will be installed on the lake. For example in China, the floating solar plant connected 150 MW (to the grid). We are doing about 30 to 50 MW which is not too big.

“We have done the feasibility study and we think it is possible. So the next step is to execute it, probably beginning of 2021. It takes time,” he told reporters.

He was met after the closing ceremony of the Sustainability and Renewable Energy Forum (SAREF) 2019 which was officiated by Minister of Utilities Datuk Seri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) here today.

Sharbini pointed out that the solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and hydro was a good combination.

“The two can complement each other. During daytime, we can use solar power while conserving water (hydro) and night time, we can use hydro to generate power. The hydro is like a battery then,” he said.

On the ratio of power generation mix through renewable energy sources in Sarawak in the future, he emphasised that the aspiration was 4-5 per cent solar, 76 per cent hydro and the rest would be gas and coal.

“That is for security reasons, just in case there is drought (dry season) in the future,” he added.

On introducing solar panels on the rooftops of homeowners in which excess electricity generated can be sold back to the utility company, he said that they were still studying the model system being implemented in Peninsular Malaysia.

“Putting solar panels on rooftops are something we have not decided yet but it is a proposal. We have not decided what we are going to do (the mechanism) and we are looking at what Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) is doing,” he said.

Clarifying on the federal government not recognising big hydropower generation as renewable energy, Sharbini explained that they only recognised hydro power stations below 100MW.

“Above 100MW is not considered renewable according to their definition.

“But Dr Sanjaya (Velautham) said they will look into it, which I am very pleased to learn, considering the significant contribution of Sarawak in the renewable energy sector and since the world recognised big hydro as renewable,” he said.

Dr Sanjaya is the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) Malaysia chief executive officer.—DayakDaily