By Vortec Group: Making energy smart for a low-carbon future on Dec 01, 2020
An electrical engineer by training, Fook Hoong’s experience in energy dates back to the 70s. His interest in renewable energy was piqued when he was involved in a project using solar energy to purify and generate clean water.
The project got him to be so fascinated with tornado vortexes that it became the key inspiration for his start-up, Vortec. Its first product was an energy-efficient, bladeless ceiling fan designed to cool spaces in Singapore’s hot weather effectively. It is now installed in numerous locations in Nanyang Technology University (NTU) and island-wide in offices and residential homes.
Since 2013, Fook Hoong has retired from teaching and joined NTU’s dedicated Energy Research Institute (ERI@N) to work full-time on renewable energy projects.
One of his most memorable undertaking to date was to lead a project that integrates renewable energy from solar PV, wind turbines and Energy Storage System (ESS) in microgrids to provide complementary power at Semakau Landfill with clean energy. It is Singapore’s only offshore landfill and a testbed for myriad renewable energy sources.
One of the key challenges Fook Hoong faced was ensuring a stable power supply to the remote island. He noted that battery failure occurred too frequently, resulting in shutdowns for the system and facility for months. This urged him to consider how systems can continue to operate in the event of single battery cell or unit failure.
Vortec’s solution: An Intelligent Energy Storage System (i-ESS). Utilising dynamic power electronics control, the hot-swapping and self-healing nature of i-ESS keep systems and facilities running despite battery failure. It reconfigures itself intelligently to continue functioning, ensuring energy flow.
Designed to be modular and scalable, it can also be configured for a variety of voltage, power, and energy needs. It overcomes the drawbacks of conventional ESS solutions, which are constrained by the weakest cell in the battery system. They also do not allow for intermixing of battery technologies.
With the i-ESS, Vortec wants to change how power and energy can be managed in the future. This re-imagined ESS also supports the global shift to alternative energy solutions to fight climate change.
Fook Hoong shares: “Although Singapore has a stable power supply, we are still largely dependent on fossil fuels. As the government pushes ahead to explore alternative energy sources, issues such as intermittency will need to be addressed by smarter batteries and ESS.
“One of our end goals is also to reach out to remote communities in this region with no access to energy. Our power supplies can provide them with a consistent, reliable source of electricity to power their daily needs,” he adds.
Inspired by the tech moguls Elon Musk and James Dyson, Fook Hoong hopes Vortec's innovations can contribute to building a low-carbon future. “I hope to continue innovating and creating products. I tell my grandchildren, there is only one earth, I’m just doing my part to ensure a sustainable earth for your generation and the generations after.”