Lighting up Marina Bay

Lighting up Marina Bay

Like arteries and veins that keep the body alive with a constant flow of blood, close to 26,000km of cables, more than 3,240km of gas pipelines and a 3,000-strong team of people work around the clock to keep Singapore's lights on and air cool. 

When Mr Thiam Chiong Seng drives along the East Coast Parkway and past the Marina Bay area, it is rarely without a smile on his face.

The 47-year-old engineer is the director of network development at Singapore Power (SP), where he has worked for 16 years doing high-voltage equipment installations, including at the Marina South substation.

That means keeping the lights on in iconic buildings that include Marina Bay Sands, the Marina Bay Financial Centre and Gardens by the Bay.

"With Marina Bay, I know that we are literally powering it. You can see and feel the impact," he said. "That's why it's very exciting being in the energy business. You're not dealing with tiny electronics. What we build is so huge so you feel a real sense of satisfaction when you see a job completed."

SP's network development engineers develop and build the infrastructure that ensures continuous and reliable power supply to households, as well as industrial and commercial buildings. This includes forging the fit between network demand and supply, conducting simulations and doing tests and checks on equipment before it is used.

"We don't want a situation in which we turn the equipment on and you suddenly see 'fireworks'. We have our biggest fireworks display on National Day and we'd like to keep it that way," Mr

Thiam said with a laugh.

What makes the Marina South substation unique is that it is Singapore's first substation that can receive bulk energy transmissions at 230 kilovolts (kV) from the power generation companies and then convert it to 22kV, which is the voltage at which some consumers can use it.

Usually, power has to be converted to 66kV before being reconverted to 22kV or lower voltages, but new equipment allows it to bypass that intermediate stage. That means saving on space and equipment cost.

The current capacity of the substation is 300 megavolt amperes (MVA) - meaning it can power up an area up to twice the size of Ang Mo Kio Town.

"But we have also future-proofed it so it can deal with the area's expansion," he explained, adding that the substation is capable of servicing the area's needs for at least the next decade.

The substation also has three sets of 230kV cables to create a situation of "double redundancy", so even if one set is knocked out, the other two function as back-up, keeping the lights on.

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