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Powering Remote Islands One Microgrid At-A-Time

August 21, 2017
By Roch Drozdowski-Strehl, Deputy Director – REIDS, Nanyang Technological University and Gerardo Rebollar, Substation Automation Product Line Leader, Grid Solutions, GE Energy Connections
Semakau Island, located 8 kilometers south of Singapore, is the test site for a microgrid pilot project that stands out because of its global ambitions and objectives.

Systems and Technologies for a Sustainable & Affordable Energy Access-for-All in Southeast Asia

The Renewable Energy Integration Demonstrator - Singapore (REIDS) is the largest hybrid microgrid test and research platform in the tropics. Launched by the Nanyang Technological University Singapore (NTU), supported by the country’s Economic Development Board (EDB) and National Environment Agency (NEA), REIDS aims to study, and demonstrate the ability to achieve sustainable, affordable energy access to all parts of Southeast Asia.


Singapore’s Semakau island is the test site for a grid trial that if successful, could transform power generation, distribution and transmission policy for many ASEAN nations.

How? The REIDS initiative will serve as a model for the planning, deployment, and operation of physical microgrids tapping into the renewable potential in the region. The project will also showcase how microgrids can better serve the energy needs of communities from a societal, economic and market development viewpoints.

Why Does REIDS Matter?

Around 1.3 billion people today have no access, or sporadic, access to electricity. Demand for more stable, affordable electricity is particularly strong in Africa and Southeast Asia.

Of the 625 million people living in Southeast Asia, about 125 million lack of access to modern energy service. Countries such as Indonesia (17,500 islands), and Philippines (7,000 islands) major challenges to provide electricity to communities living on remote islands. Geographical factors make it technologically, and financially, unrealistic to connect them to integrated grids as used in in North America and Europe. Most of them rely on diesel generation for their energy supply - diesel however, is considered one of the largest contributors to environmental pollution worldwide.

A better solution would be the integration of local energy resources with existing diesel generation, to provide much-needed electricity in a more affordable, sustainable manner, while reducing reliance on diesel.

Microgrids a Good Fit for Southeast Asia

In the context of REIDS, NTU and GE Energy Connections’ Grid Solutions business have jointly developed a MicroGrid Power Mix Management solution that has the capability of managing power exchanges within a microgrid, whether it is separated or connected to the main grid. This solution is essential to ensure the smooth, safe switch from renewable energy, to energy storage systems, or fossil fuel - when needed - to maintain a stable supply of electricity.

Speaking about the project and GE’s involvement, Alvin Chin, senior business operations manager, GE Energy Connections said, “Like our NTU, EDB and NEA project partners, we share a passion to provide affordable, sustainable energy to many millions of people – we believe it’s a basic human right. That’s why we are excited to bring advanced microgrid technology to Southeast Asia, and hope this project is the first of many more to come in the region.”



The REIDS project aims to demonstrate the ability to manage a new energy mix based on a high penetration of renewable sources, combining solar, wind, diesel, and gas technologies in an off-the-grid network.

This environment also serves as the perfect platform to test energy storage, renewable energy production - onshore, offshore, and end-use technologies to industrial, commercial and residential loads. Energy produced from these renewable sources powers the landfill operations on Semakau.

The initial phase of the REIDS project has been completed with the first microgrid system up and running. The remaining two phases will reach completion in the upcoming months. Roch Drozdowski-Strehl, REIDS Deputy Director at NTU, provided more detail about the next stages: “Once all microgrids are online, REIDS will further study the interoperability of different generations of energy management systems.

“Of particular interest to NTU is the concept of ‘mesogrids’ where multiple microgrids are able to interface with each other to achieve increased overall performance. By setting up a small-scale flexible desalination facility on Semakau Landfill, NTU is also looking into opportunities and technical solutions to address simultaneously poor access to water and energy.”