By next year, Pulau Ubin's main village could have up to 90 per cent of its energy needs powered by the sun, thanks to an upgraded power grid.
The upgraded grid was among the enhancements to the island that Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong announced yesterday at the annual Ubin Day event.
He also said personal alert buttons have been installed in the homes of elderly villagers by the National Parks Board (NParks) and GovTech, as part of a trial. This allows seniors to quickly call for assistance in emergency situations.
Mr Tong said fire hydrants and hose reels will also be installed in the island's main village, as well as in Kampong Sungei Durian and Ubin Living Lab, a facility for field studies and environmental education, to strengthen the island's fire management response.
Previously, all households on the island were given fire extinguishers as part of a larger initiative to improve facilities there.
Mr Tong was joined at the event by National Development Minister Desmond Lee and NParks chief executive Kenneth Er. NParks is the central managing agency of Ubin.
The Pulau Ubin Micro-grid was launched by the Energy Market Authority (EMA) in 2013 to provide more than 30 of the island's residents and businesses with a more reliable, cleaner and affordable electricity supply than diesel-powered generators.
EMA's Industry Development Department director Jeanette Lim said that when the grid was launched, about 15 per cent of daily electricity demand was supplied through solar energy, with the rest supplied by diesel-powered generators connected to the grid.
Besides making the grid's energy supply cleaner, EMA said yesterday that NParks will extend the grid's coverage beyond the main village to Kampong Sungei Durian, where 13 households will benefit.
The authorities said: "This will help address the villagers' request for a cleaner and more reliable electricity supply and raise their quality of life."
The grid is operated by EDPR Sunseap Apac. Ms Lim said users pay a fixed rate of 80 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is cheaper than operating their own diesel generators at about $1.20 per kWh.
To optimise the grid's solar photovoltaic (PV) system's output, its operators will add plants next to solar panels to create a "solar green roof". This reduces the ambient temperature of a solar PV system by 3 deg C to 8 deg C, increasing its efficiency by 1.5 per cent to 4 per cent. An energy storage system will also be deployed to help improve the reliability of the grid.
Madam Ng Ngak Heng, a provision shop owner in Ubin's main village, said yesterday that since she started purchasing from the grid in 2014, she has not needed to use her own diesel-powered generator, thus reducing noise and smoke pollution.
The 72-year-old, a resident of Pulau Ubin for 47 years, said she appreciates the convenience of no longer needing to fill up and operate the generator, which can be a laborious process.
Meanwhile, Ms Ong Ah Sam, 84, who lives in one of five houses where the personal alert buttons have been installed, said that being able to call for help easily gives her peace of mind.
"It's easy to use and more fuss-free than picking up a phone and then looking for a number," she said of the buttons, which are installed at about waist height and will allow her to call for help with a push of a button.
Yesterday, Mr Tong also gave updates about species recovery and habitat enhancement efforts on Ubin over the past years.
A first breeding of the lesser whistling duck at Pekan Quarry was recorded this year.
He said: "It was only last year that we first spotted a pair of them using the floating wetlands and floating logs to roost.
"Now the two ducks have grown their own family."