Good For Planets and Bottom Lines: Inside the Solar Movement

An engineer’s passion for going green helps drive the growth of Singapore’s solar industry.

With countries around the globe looking to reduce carbon emissions by relying more on solar energy, James Ong, sales technical support manager from solar energy company REC Solar Pte. Ltd in Singapore, finds his schedule very busy. Passionate about environmental preservation since he studied electrical engineering at the University of Queensland in Australia, Ong spends his days on projects such as managing one of the floating photovoltaic (PV) systems at Singapore’s biggest test bed of solar panels on the Tengeh Reservoir. PV systems produce energy from sunlight.

Ong spoke with Associations Now Brand Connection recently about his work in Singapore’s fast moving solar industry, where energy production is now triple what it was three years ago.

You’re clearly very passionate about the solar energy field. What initially drew you to it?

James Ong: I started being very passionate about going green when I was taking my university degree in Australia in 2004. Renewable energy is very popular there, and I became inspired to give back to our environment and slow down the process of climate change. With global warming and the rising cost of fuels, potential demand for clean energy like solar cannot be measured.

Why did your company decide to situate its research and development in Singapore?

James Ong: While Singapore cannot claim to have the cheapest labor, land or electricity, the access to technology and research & development activities, among others, nailed it for REC to set up in Singapore.

What are your goals for the Asia-Pacific region? Your company has been doing interesting work in the area of floating PV technology, where the solar cells that convert sunlight to energy are situated on bodies of water to conserve land.

James Ong: With the growing demand for renewable energy in Asia Pacific, we hope everyone can benefit directly from the sun, especially for countries that do not have basic access to electricity.

In addition, we wish to introduce floating photovoltaic system technology and the advantages of this development. We are also looking at ways of and opportunities for developing floating PV solutions that are suitable to deploy on sea water. Water occupies 71% of the surface of the earth.

Your work seems demanding and challenging, especially in such a technical field. Is there anything you do to avoid burnout?

James Ong: I love cycling and running. I plan long rides from 80 km to 150 km with my cycling team Triumphant. We trained together to prepare for the Ironman race. I also enjoy traveling overseas for rides.

What is your favorite place to relax in Singapore?

James Ong: It is getting on my road bike and cycling with my teammates from Triumphant. We will ride and chit chat along the journey and end up at The Autobus. The Autobus is a bike cafe at Shenton Way where you get to meet all the enthusiastic cyclists who wake up as early as 5 a.m. like us to go out for a ride. The atmosphere of the cafe is awesome.

This profile of James Ong, Sales Technical support manager for Asia Pacific, REC Group 1, is part of Singapore: Passion Personified. It is the third in a series of eight profiles of individuals who embody the country’s entrepreneurial drive and “passion made possible” spirit, which shares stories to inspire the business leaders of today and tomorrow.

(Handout photo)