New Prison HQ to be powered by clean energy

The new Prison Headquarters scheduled to open by year end is looking to build a fuel cell plant to supply its energy needs.

In tender documents posted on the government procurement website GeBIZ, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) invited contractors to design and build a hydrogen integrated proton-exchange membrane fuel cell power plant.

It will generate clean energy to be supplied to the complex in Changi.

As part of the requirements, the plant needs to work with multiple renewable energy feedstocks, such as food waste, to produce its own hydrogen gas for the fuel cell.

Contractors will have to operate and maintain the plant. Systems with negative carbon footprint will be preferred, the MHA said.

The tender closed on Feb 12.

Fuel cells work by converting the chemical energy of a type of fuel, typically hydrogen, into electricity, generating heat and water in the process.

While fuel cells are more costly, they are cleaner than using oil and gas, which give rise to emissions like methane gas - said to be more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Currently, the Singapore Prison Service buys most of its energy from electricity retailers authorised by the Energy Market Authority, said Superintendent of Prisons Lim Beng Wee, senior assistant director, infrastructure and development.

It also uses solar panels and a solar thermal heating system to produce hot water for the kitchen in one of the institutions.

"In the long run, these are more sustainable options that can contribute substantially to cost savings," he said.

According to the Building and Construction Authority's (BCA) website, the new Prison Headquarters will have an estimated energy savings of 2,447,600 kilowatt hour a year, among other features. This won it the 2012 BCA Green Mark for Buildings Award.

The savings come to more than 1,000 times the average monthly electricity consumption of a bungalow here.

The new $118.5 million headquarters will have four main buildings and several smaller ancillary buildings that house office facilities, a multi-purpose hall, a clubhouse and an auditorium.

Professor Chan Siew Hwa from Nanyang Technological University's Energy Research Institute said that a proper energy assessment for the entire system and process is needed to achieve cost savings.

"Fuel cells in general have very high energy conversion efficiency," he said.

"The shortcomings of PEM fuel cell include the high cost of hydrogen unless it is produced centrally to get the cost down."

This article was first published on February 28, 2015.
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