June 25, 2017

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feng tianwei

by Suhaile Md 

SO WHAT if she was axed from the national team training programme six months back? Feng Tianwei’s still got it. Singapore’s top table tennis star won the 2017 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) title on Sunday (Apr 23).

It’s her first major title since she was booted out of the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) last October. Apparently, the 30-year-old didn’t fit into its rejuvenation plans, so STTA would not support her training. It would however support her participation in the ITTF world circuit. Though it’s not clear what exactly this support entails. As for major meets like the Olympics and the Asian Games, she will face the same qualifying criteria as any other STTA athlete. The three-time Olympic medallist had failed to make it past the Olympic quarter-finals in Rio 2016.

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There was much drama surrounding Feng’s ouster (links below). But she was quick to pick herself up and form a team to support her training. She has been busy competing since.

Barely over a month after the split, Feng faced world No. 1 and reigning Olympic champion, Ding Ning in a China Table Tennis Super League match on Dec 6. The bout was a nail-biter, but Feng prevailed, beating the world champion by just one set. The score: 3:2.

While the win gave her a much needed confidence boost, constant travel across China for league matches took a toll. A few days later at the ITTF Doha Open, Feng lost 3:4 to Miu Hirano of Japan in the round of 16. That’s one step short of the quarter finals. It was the last event of the year.

The loss of STTA’s resources clearly had an impact. “This is the first competition I’m going to where I’m handling every aspect of competing by myself,” said Feng after her loss to Japan, reported The Straits Times (Dec 10).

Lucky for her, she still qualified for the Sports Excellence Scholarship which provides her with a monthly stipend of up to $8,000 amongst other benefits like medical support. The scholarship is awarded by the High Performance Sports (HPS) Steering Committee, not STTA. HPS is chaired by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu. Feng successfully renewed the scholarship in March this year.

Feng’s 2017 season started on a sour note. She was absent from the STTA awards ceremony in mid-February although she was the top table tennis performer in Singapore last year. She had come in third for both the World Cup and Asian Cup in 2016. The best player award was not given out that night.

According to ST, when asked about Feng’s absence, STTA president Ellen Lee said: “She is no longer at the STTA… all this while, we have been recognising Feng Tianwei for what she has done and we are grateful… I think it’s about time that we also let the recognition be given and spread on to other players as well.”

February was a dismal month for her. For the ITTF Qatar Open, she was defeated by German Solja Petrissa, who ranked 13th in the world, by two sets. Feng was ranked sixth at that time.

There was one bright spot. On Feb 23, Feng met the qualifying criteria for the Asian Table Tennis Championship in April, so STTA took her in as part of its Singapore contingent. It was the first time she played with the STTA since their October split. On April 14 though, she lost to China’s Chen Meng at the quarter-final stage in three straight sets.

Despite the loss, Feng was ranked third in the world by ITTF in March and April, up from sixth when she parted ways with STTA. The next best Singaporean, ranked 25th in the world, is Zeng Jian. Since Feng is no longer in the STTA, this makes 20-year-old Zeng STTA’s best player.

Feng solidified her hold on the global rankings with her ITTF Korea Open win on Sunday (Apr 23). After her win, she said: “At the moment I don’t practise with the national team in Singapore although I live there. I am practising in different clubs and with different private sparring partners. Sometimes I even go to China for training.”

The three highest ITTF ranked players will represent Singapore in the SEA games team events this August, said STTA technical director Loy Soo Han in response to queries from The New Paper in January.

So it really doesn’t matter whether Feng is part of STTA or not as far as the glory of Singapore is concerned. Feng could still play for the national team if she maintains her ranking. If she wins medals, Singapore’s best paddler would have done so with little to no resources spent on her by STTA. Very much like Joseph Schooling.
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Read more on last October’s controversy here:

  1. Feng breaks silence on STTA controversy. Here’s her letter – in English

  2. What STTA’s Deputy President said about Feng Tianwei’s sacking

  3. Feng was a “bad egg”, a “disgrace to nation”, says STTA Deputy President

  4. Feng Tianwei’s shock exit and the economy

 

Featured image by cm yong. (CC BY 2.0)

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For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

 

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SO THE 15 People’s Action Party town councils will pull out $45 million from their operating and sinking funds to upgrade the lifts, while the sole Workers’ Party town council is using $17.5 million, mainly from its sinking funds, it said. What’s your first instinct? That the PAP is stingy?

It just goes to show how complicated town councils have become and how packaging helps perception. Those who have been following news of lift upgrading will be wondering what has happened to the G’s $450 million Lift Enhancement Programme. Isn’t it supposed to foot 90 per cent of the bill?

The PAP’s package has nothing to do with the Lift Enhancement Programme, which is to make sure old lifts have the safety features recommended by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA). This is the PAP’s own programme and is about putting in more safety measures such as longer periods of checks and more cameras. You wonder why they would do this on its own dime? Aren’t the BCA’s recommendations good enough?

The WP package is more about replacing old lifts. It has called a tender for 20 old lifts that it thinks will cost it some $17.5 million. Most of the money will come from its sinking fund but there’s a small number of lifts which qualify for HDB co-funding under the HDB Selective Lift Replacement Programme.

While we’re talking in the millions, there’s a woman who just got a $8.65 million payout for injuries she suffered as a cyclist. You might think it’s a lot, but she had actually asked for $26 million from Hyundai Engineering & Construction. Its cables from a construction site in Pasir Ris had caused her accident in 2009. There isn’t anything wrong with the 42-year-old physically, but she had to be warded for more than two years for post-traumatic stress.

Now, why did the judge pare down her claims?

According to TODAY, among the claims that were disallowed were expenses for separate caregivers for her son, hospital expenses which included staying in the more expensive executive room in a private hospital which cost $400 a day and charges for food for her visitors and supplements and painkillers.

Here is a selection of choice quotes from people making the news:

“Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the US doesn’t tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don’t think so! ”

— A belligerent tweet from United States president-elect Donald Trump who has been criticised for taking a phone call from President Tsai Ing-Wen of Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province.

The unfortunate irony of IMDA’s assessment of the works having ‘excessive nudity’ is that both works actually make deliberate attempts to distinguish nudity from sexualised connotations. Ultimately, the licensing process – along with the online furore surrounding these works – deems that society at present is not ready for these cutting-edge, intelligent works.”

— M1 Singapore Fringe Festival organisers on pulling out two performances which featured nudity after IMDA asked that they be modified. Here’s our story on the naked fight.

“I’ve spent the last three weeks or so slowly getting back into the rhythm of competition. To be able to defeat Ding Ning is a huge boost for myself, and gives me greater confidence to carry on.” 

— Feng Tianwei, who was axed from the Singapore table tennis team on beating the Olympic champion in the China Table Tennis Super League. She was playing for her club, Ordos 1980.

Read more on the Feng Tianwei controversy here:

  1. Feng breaks silence on STTA controversy. Here’s her letter – in English

  2. What STTA’s Deputy President said about Feng Tianwei’s sacking

  3. Feng was a “bad egg”, a “disgrace to nation”, says STTA Deputy President

  4. Feng Tianwei’s shock exit and the economy

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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AFTER a week of accusations of her misconduct and speculation over whether they were the reason for her dismissal from the national squad, Feng Tianwei finally broke her silence on the matter last night (Oct 28). After issuing a statement to various media, she then posted it on her Facebook page.

 

The letter was written in Chinese, so we took a stab at translating it for you:

HELLO everyone. I’m so grateful for the concern that everyone has given me. I’ve let everyone worry, I’m very sorry about that.

What happened this week happened suddenly, I myself also needed some time to adjust. That’s why I’ve stayed silent these few days, and have not responded. Thank you all for waiting so patiently.

Ever since I began representing Singapore in table tennis in 2007, it has been almost 10 years. During this time, I’ve had some achievements. I became a world champion. I won a few Olympic medals, and standing on the world’s largest award podium, I have fulfilled a childhood dream of mine.

I’ve made it possible for the Singapore flag to fly high in the international sporting scene, and for Singapore’s national anthem to echo around the world.

I would not have been able to achieve all this without the help of the Singapore government, sports committee members, Olympic committee, the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA), and the strong support from all over.

Here, I wish to express my sincerest thanks to all of these people.

At the same time, I would also like to thank my fans and the people who have supported me. Thank you for being with me on this journey through tough times. You have filled me with motivation as I pressed on in my journey. Because of you, I have not felt lonely.

The Singapore government has given me opportunities. It has allowed me to become a citizen, and represent the country to compete internationally. To have a career in table tennis is something that I’ve fought for in my life. I will not give it up easily. I will continue to play, continue to represent Singapore, continue to fight on the international stage. I hope that I can help to develop Singapore’s table tennis scene and make it better. I hope that this will prove to everyone that the Singapore government’s support of local sports will have guaranteed returns!

Even though I am no longer on the national squad, I will still live in Singapore. I am still on a scholarship, and am still in discussions with various organisations on competing in the sport. STTA has also said it would continue to support me if I choose to compete internationally.

Therefore, I will continue to strive and not give up on myself. I want to continue to compete as a representative of Singapore.

I feel regretful that I was not able to bring back any medals from the recently concluded Olympic games. It was through this experience that I recognised that I still have a lot of room for improvement.

I plan to put together a team, hire different expert coaches, and return to the competition arena in a new way. Perhaps this will bring even more opportunities for me to grow as a player.

I want to train and compete harder. I want to improve myself by playing against and sharing experiences with the world’s greatest players.

I hope to have the opportunity to compete in fair and open competitions internationally, and wish that I will be able to compete in the 2020 Olympics. I want to bring back more Olympic medals for Singapore, to get the fourth Olympic medal of my sporting career.

These few days, there have been some newspapers that have untruthfully reported on my character and attacked me personally. This has created an extremely ugly situation. I am shocked that these rumours have surfaced.

During my contracted time with STTA, I have never cheated anyone of money, or acted in any way that was unlawful. I have already consulted a lawyer on these false claims, and hope there will not be any more of such untruthful reports.

Finally, I want to thank everyone and my friends in the media for their support and for respecting my privacy. I am a Singapore citizen. To be able to give my strength for the glory of Singapore is my honour. Please continue to support me!

I would like to contribute and continue to represent Singapore. From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much for your support.

Thank you everyone!

Feng Tianwei

 

Here are some of our past stories on the controversy:

The ping pong game: Who’s the bad egg then?

Feng was a “bad egg”, a “disgrace to nation”, says STTA Deputy President

What STTA’s Deputy President said about Feng Tianwei’s sacking

The ‘assassination’ of a national Olympian

Feng Tianwei’s shock exit and the economy

 

Featured image Women’s World Cup Table Tennis by Flickr user cm yong. (CC BY 2.0)

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PADDLER Feng Tianwei has spoken up. She didn’t give a press conference after all. She issued a statement to the media written in Chinese. She also gave one interview, to The Straits Times, which was one news media which did not speculate on why she was given the axe.

“Some reports have made assassinations on my character and impacted my reputation negatively. I am shocked by these allegations. Throughout my time at the STTA, I have never committed fraud or done anything illegal. I have consulted lawyers on these reports,” her statement said.

Well, well. Who’s the bad egg then? Table tennis is sure giving out a powerful pong.

TODAY and The New Paper had reported sources giving reasons for her dismissal. These included misconduct and ill-discipline. Among other things, they said she didn’t want to share her prize money and that she had made false claims regarding the now infamous 200 eggs she had for breakfast over nine days. You can read our report here.

In the ST interview, Feng said: “I never made any claim for more than what I’m entitled to, nor cheated the association of money, or did anything unlawful.”

The STTA has been coy about her sacking, saying only that the 30-year old didn’t fit into its rejuvenation plans. But news reports have painted her as an athlete who was difficult to manage and who had had several run-ins with management. On Thursday night, its deputy president David Sim shed more light on reasons for her sacking on his Facebook page, describing her as a national disgrace and a “bad egg”.

The STTA has distanced itself from Mr Sim’s comments, which he has since deleted. They were his “personal” views, it said yesterday. But it also took the opportunity yesterday to tackle one point which could be a legal minefield if left to stand: allegations that she had made false claims.

It said: “Regarding the recent media reports, Feng Tianwei was cautioned about the proper claiming procedure, but she did not falsify nor claim more than what she was permitted.”

Now, here’s the interesting part: TODAY is standing by its sources. In its news report on the STTA statement, it said it had seen documents detailing Feng’s dubious claims.

What a twist in the tale!

Feng didn’t say why she thought she was sacked in the interview, nor did she refer to STTA’s rejuvenation’s plans.

ST had this strange paragraph in its story:

It is understood that things with former women’s team head coach Jing Junhong reached a nadir at the Polish Open in November last year, following which Jing was redeployed and replaced by Liu Jiayi. Liu was later succeeded by Chen Zhibin.

Feng said: “I never thought that things couldn’t be salvaged. That would mean I wanted to cut off all ties with the STTA.”

This would be gibberish to someone who hasn’t been following news about the sport. So here’s a short background note: Feng, together with fellow paddler Yu Mengyu, had asked STTA for a change in the women’s team coach to help them improve their games. This follows an open dispute between Jing and Yu at the international competition earlier in October which resulted in a reprimand for each. Jing was replaced by Liu Jiayi.

So what’s that got to do with the price of eggs???

It looks like the STTA now sees some wisdom in going public. STTA president Ellen Lee was on ChannelNewsAsia last night saying that deliberations to drop Feng started more than two years ago. If so, it was really good at keeping things under wraps because Feng declared in the ST interview that she was “really taken aback because it wasn’t something I had considered before.”

Contrary to reports that her sacking was the culmination of a series of run-ins with management, Ms Lee stuck to STTA’s script about rejuvenation plans.

“If we only concentrated on just continuing to develop and assist her in her games, then we are not being fair to our youth and to our younger players in Singapore who are trying very hard as well to be able to go into the place that she has occupied,” said Ms Lee, who took over the helm from MP Lee Bee Wah in 2014. 

“We have to promote the sport, we have to make sure we groom enough players to take over any vacancies that come about.”

She did not want to be drawn into confirming or denying news reports giving reasons for her sacking.

“It’s hard for me to comment on people’s speculations,” she said. “STTA has never made official statements to that extent, and I guess if there is an angle that people want to create that really makes her look bad, STTA cannot be held responsible for that.”

That’s pretty rich. What can STTA be held responsible for then?

 

You can read our English translation of Feng Tianwei’s letter to the media here.

 

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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COMPARE this: “Feng Tianwei has been a cornerstone of the national team since 2007. She has brought many golden moments to the sport. We would like to thank her for all that she has done for Singapore table tennis, and we would like to take this opportunity to wish Tianwei all the best in her future endeavours.”

To this: “She has been ill-discipline, disrespect n misconduct as reported in the newspaper then it is a disgrace to the nation instead… It is also good for STTA to send this signal to the players that STTA shall not tolerate those players with bad characters.”

The first statement is from the Singapore Table Tennis Association’s (STTA) president Ellen Lee. The second – from her deputy, Mr David Sim.

We’re talking about the sacking of national paddler Feng Tianwei, of course – and the STTA’s surprise announcement this week that it would not to renew her contract when it expires next Monday.

In a candid conversation Mr Sim had on his Facebook page yesterday (Oct 27) with some other users, he made clear why the association no longer wanted anything to do with Feng, a three-time Olympic medallist.

Here are the highlights:

 

On the news leak of her disciplinary issues:

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On those 200 eggs and why it’s a big deal:

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On the importance of the reputation of STTA and Singapore:

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On grooming local talent:

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Read more about the controversy here:

Feng was a “bad egg”, a “disgrace to nation”, says STTA Deputy President

The ‘assassination’ of a national Olympian

 

Featured image from TMG file. 

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

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THE Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) has spoken. On why it axed Feng Tianwei. At least its deputy president has. On Facebook.

Mr David Sim has been busy replying to posters who have asked him about the shock sacking which, on the official record, was about how the paddler with three Olympic medals didn’t fit into its “rejuvenation plans”.

Perhaps, Mr Sim, chairman of Woodlands Citizens Consultative Committee and a property realtor, might not have realised that his posts were set to “public”. His responses make for interesting reading indeed.

He wrote that he thought Feng was a national disgrace because of her ill disciplined conduct, and that an athlete’s character and integrity was more important than the glory the athlete can bring to the country.

To a poster who thought the sacking could have been better handled and has become an international joke, he replied: “I don’t feel that way but since she has been ill-discipline, disrespect n misconduct as reported in the newspaper then it is a disgrace to the nation.”

He also implied that it was STTA which leaked the news of some of her misdemeanours to the media, such as the 200 eggs she charged STTA for.

“if this is not true then STTA will not reveal this news n FTW can sue STTA n why not ask her to do it if she is innocent.”

It wasn’t a question of whether STTA could afford the bill of a few hundred dollars but how unbelievable this was. “if this is not true then STTA will not reveal this news n FTW (Feng Tianwei) can sue STTA n why not ask her to do it if she is innocent.”

Mr Sim also said that discipline was a bigger factor in her sacking than grooming local talent: “If any local or foreign players have done serious misconduct then it is not only tarnish the image to STTA but the nation.”

He added: “STTA has done rightfully in order not to keep bad ‘eggs’.”

Well, well.

It’s odd that an STTA official would go on this roundabout route to slam an athlete, so we called Mr Sim to ask him about it.

His first response was that he was only depending on what the media had reported – and denied that he had described her as a national disgrace. Asked if the media reports were true about the eggs et al, he prevaricated and said “it should be”.

In any case, given that it was early in the morning and we seemed to have rumbled him out of bed, we suggested that Mr Sim re-read his posts and reply to our queries. He promptly took them down and his last words to us were: “I have no comment”.

 

Read more about what Mr Sim said about Feng on his Facebook page here:

What STTA’s Deputy President said about Feng Tianwei’s sacking

 

Featured image from TMG file. 

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For breaking news, you can talk to us via email.

Morning Call, 0830, clock

YOU could call her Singapore’s greatest Olympian, having secured three medals – one silver, two bronzes – in the Beijing and London Olympics.

Or you could call her a bitch.

That’s what her critics are saying about her to at least two mainstream newspapers – just one day after others in the sporting fraternity expressed shock and disappointment over the Singapore Table Tennis Association’s (STTA) decision to drop Feng Tianwei from the national squad on Tuesday (Oct 25).

According to sources who were not named in The New Paper (TNP) and TODAY, the China-born Singaporean had a reputation for being a rule-breaker who was difficult, dishonest, and disrespectful to the association’s coaches.

Last year, the national paddler who’s ranked sixth in the world had supposedly refused to contribute a portion of her prize money to her coaches after winning gold in the SEA Games women’s team category – a standard STTA policy, according to the sources. The amount was about $400.

On one other occasion, she had apparently submitted handwritten claims to be reimbursed for 200 eggs and 10 tins of milk.

The association paid her but later determined these were false claims. It issued her a warning and took back the cash, which amounted to “a few hundred dollars”, said TODAY.

No date or further detail of this incident was given.

Meanwhile, The Straits Times (ST) did not carry a story on these allegations but focused its report on the future of Feng’s career, and whether she would continue to compete internationally for Singapore.

She could, but she would have to fund her own competition expenses as she is no longer on the national team.

As for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, that seems unlikely as she would have to be nominated by a national sports association – in this case, the STTA – even though there have been exceptions in the past.

Feng could also play in major sports meets by switching nationalities – but she would have to wait three years before representing a new country, said ST.

It’s a shame that neither TNP nor TODAY were able to verify these claims of disciplinary issues, or speak to the credibility of their sources. They amount to a character assassination of a national Olympian, and true or not, such talk deserves an open discussion.

For now, it’s taken the spotlight off the STTA – and its own internal issues, which also deserve a frank airing in the public domain.

As ST’s sports writer May Chen said yesterday: “No national sport association can sack two of its best players in quick succession, have athletes fight their coach, and have some of its most notable local talents walk away from the sport, without questions being asked over how it is run.”

It looks like TNP at least was able to reach Feng for comment, but the 30-year-old declined. Feng had said she would be holding a press conference this week, though it’s unclear if she would be addressing her critics on these incidents directly.

The STTA did not. When asked, the association said disciplinary matters are private and confidential. It’s also still unclear how much impact these incidents had on its decision not to renew her contract when it ends next Monday.

The association’s CEO Wong Hui Leng did not deny these incidents happened, however, saying: “We believe very strongly in values like discipline, respect, and the importance of teamwork and working together towards our common objective of bringing glory to Singapore.”

That’s saying a lot for not wanting to say anything.

Feng, it’s your serve.

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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YOU can be the world’s No. 6, but if you can’t perform up to our standards – and have a smart mouth to boot, we don’t want you around.

Singapore’s top female table tennis player Feng Tianwei was axed from the national squad in a shock decision announced late yesterday (Oct 25) by the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA).

The association said it would not be renewing her contract because she “does not fit into the STTA’s current plans for rejuvenation”. Her contract with STTA will end next Monday.

It gave no further details on its decision but the China-born national paddler who became a Singaporean in 2008 has been known to clash with her coaches and the association’s management. In October last year, she and a fellow teammate had demanded a change of coaches – an argument that eventually led to the firing of then-men’s team head coach, Yang Chuanning.

She also performed poorly in the recent Olympics, returning empty-handed despite doing well in other competitions, including the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Women’s World Cup two weeks ago.

Responding to the statement, Feng, 30, said she would continue to compete and would hold a press conference soon to discuss her dismissal.

The decision stunned many in the sporting fraternity, given that Feng is Singapore’s biggest star in the table tennis arena. She was part of the Singapore women’s table tennis team that finished second in the 2008 Olympics. Four years later, she collected two bronzes – for herself and her team – in London.

May Chen from The Straits Times said the move hinted at larger issues within the association: “What goes on within the walls of the STTA’s headquarters has always been something few are privy to, but the peculiarity of this episode suggests a bigger malaise is brewing.”

“The manner in which she was dismissed – like an executioner’s axe swiftly severing ties – left the sharpest impression.”

Meanwhile, other Singaporeans who were laid off are finding it harder to find new jobs.

Apart from the weak labour demand in general, this is also because of a mismatch in skills, said the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in its biannual Macroeconomic Review published yesterday.

The “re-entry” rate fell from 50.5 per cent six months ago to 45 per cent in June this year – the lowest since 2009.

The employment decline was the worst in manufacturing, which laid off 5,300 workers in the first half of the year. Industries that added jobs included the transport and storage and start-up sectors.

On a relatively brighter note, MAS predicted the economy would pick up slightly next year, after coming in at the lower end of 1 to 2 per cent this year.

Things may be looking a little gloomy on the economic front, but it hasn’t stopped the G from having a sunny outlook about the power of sunshine.

An $11-million floating solar photovoltaic cell test-bed was launched yesterday in the Tengeh Reservoir in Tuas. Said to be the largest in the world, the test-bed is about the size of 100 five-room HDB flats, and contains 10 different solar photovoltaic systems that will be studied over the next six months.

Two best-performing systems will be chosen and studied further as part of the nation’s venture into clean and renewable energy.

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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