More than meets the eye: How did the Transformers inspire a vision for renewable energy?
08 Jan 2020 Written by JTC

If there’s one word that best describes Terrenus Energy Founder and CEO Mr Charles Wong, “visionary” would definitely fit the bill. More specifically, a visionary in the field of renewable energy.

Mr Wong recalls an occasion where he stood at the observation deck of Marina Bay Sands a couple of years ago. While everyone else was admiring the sunset, he looked down and thought it was such a waste that there were so much unused rooftop space for installing solar panels.

“Even now, I look at my office building every day and imagine what it would be like if all the glass became solar glass − that itself is a big source of renewable energy,” says Mr Wong. “The way I see it, Singapore should be utilising every available space to harness sustainability energy.”

Mr Charles Wong, CEO of Terrenus Energy, has a bold vision for renewable energy in Singapore.

His passion for the field was ignited at a young age. A fan of the cartoon franchise the Transformers, the clean, renewable and unlimited energy source used to power the characters − otherwise known as Energon – particularly fascinated him and fuelled his interest in clean energy.

Hoping to change the game, Mr Wong founded Terrenus Energy in 2016. The energy solutions company helps clients harness the sun’s energy directly, empowering them to produce their own electricity. Mr Wong’s vision for renewable energy had led him to Singapore due to its geographic location, its policies that support the industry, and its Smart Nation vision. Mr Wong’s vision is of a world with an energy ecosystem that is price competitive for consumers, with innovations that can be deployed for public use rather than commercial gains. 

Terrenus Energy currently has offices in both Singapore and Australia, and their company name is inspired by the Latin word for ‘earth’. Terrenus Energy’s first project in Singapore is JTC’s SolarLand Phase 1, which saw the installation of solar PV panels on vacant land in Jurong Island. The solar farm became operational in May 2019. It currently produces approximately 6.6 GWh of renewable energy annually, supporting the energy consumption of 1,475 4-room flats.

The SolarLand Phase 1 site on Jurong Island houses Singapore’s highest solar energy output-per-square metre site.

The project, which took one and a half years to come to fruition, definitely took hard work, reflects Mr Wong. There were numerous regulatory requirements that came with installing the solar panels on Jurong Island. This included having to break down the mechanics of solar technology for the authorities as solar is still not a familiar technology in Singapore.

Mr Wong also looks forward to the fact that SolarLand Phase 1 is not the end, but the beginning of more innovative ventures. Currently in its foundational stage of development, Terrenus Energy is also working with JTC on SolarLand Phase 2, which will involve the deployment of portable solar PV panels and a mobile substation system on available land and linkways in Changi Business Park. Energy generated from both SolarLand Phase 1 and 2 will be directed to the national grid, allowing any consumer in Singapore to access it from their respective electricity provider.

Terrenus Energy has inked an agreement with JTC to extend the SolarLand Phase 1 project to include floating solar panels, small wind turbines and tidal turbines. This will allow the site to harness four types of renewable energy – solar, tidal, wave and wind – as Singapore’s first four-in-one renewable energy site. This SolarLand Phase 1 extension project is expected to break a world record in terms of energy deployed per square metre, says Mr Wong. Phase 2 is expected to deliver an estimated 15.6 GWh of solar electricity to the national grid annually, the equivalent of powering 3,400 four-room HDB homes a year.

“My inspiration for SolarLand Phase 1 extension actually came about when I was monitoring the progress on SolarLand Phase 1,” says Mr Wong. “I was walking along a road that led to the sea. Staring at the open sea, I thought that there was great potential for using energy from the waves!”

Work on SolarLand Phase 1 extension began in June 2020, and will be broken into five phases. It is estimated to reach completion in around one and a half years.

Looking to the future, Mr Wong also shared his vision for his company, “We are also exploring other sustainable projects, such as urban farming on solar sites.” With many exciting projects on the horizon, it is Mr Wong’s dream that Terrenus Energy eventually creates a lasting legacy.

“I believe there is still a lot more innovation and creativity that can be unleashed in the area of renewable energy,” he says. “One day, I’m hoping that somewhere, there is a piece of innovation in clean energy that belongs to Terrenus Energy.”