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Cooling Singapore 2.0: Researchers Create Digital Twin to Combat Urban Heat and Innovate City Cooling Solutions

Published On Mon, 03 Jun 2024
Niharika Venkatesh
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SINGAPORE — Can power plants on Jurong Island affect mainland temperatures? How much can electric vehicles and tree cover reduce urban heat in neighborhoods like Tengah? These questions are vital for urban planners aiming to cool densely populated areas, which can be up to 7°C hotter due to the urban heat island effect. Instead of time-consuming experiments, authorities will soon be able to test these scenarios virtually, similar to a video game.
Over the past four years, more than 20 researchers have developed a "digital twin" of Singapore. This virtual model allows users to simulate scenarios to improve thermal comfort in living spaces. The Digital Urban Climate Twin is a flagship project under the Cooling Singapore 2.0 initiative, led by the Singapore-ETH Centre in collaboration with institutions like the Singapore Management University, National University of Singapore, and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology.
The system features an interactive map of Singapore and incorporates extensive computational models and data sets, including vegetation cover, traffic patterns, industrial heat emissions, and weather data. It also uses complex climate models running on the National Supercomputing Centre Singapore. On May 30, the digital twin prototype was presented to researchers, corporations, and government agencies at the Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise at the National University of Singapore. The team seeks feedback to refine the tool for operational use.
Dr. Kristina Orehounig, who leads Cooling Singapore 2.0, showcased the digital twin at the World Cities Summit on June 2. To demonstrate its capabilities, the team simulated a 2030 scenario where forested areas are converted to industrial parks or residential complexes. The model predicted temperature changes, showing higher temperatures in built-up areas, especially at night.
The tool also helps developers optimize district cooling systems, which centralize chilled water production for air-conditioning, reducing carbon emissions and costs. One challenging data set the team created was the heat emissions from Jurong Island's industrial and power sectors, involving data from 119 companies and 568 emission points. Simulations revealed that heat from Jurong Island has a localized impact, primarily affecting the Tuas region. As a prototype, the Digital Urban Climate Twin is still evolving. Dr. Orehounig emphasized the need for extensive testing to enhance its capabilities, stating, "We can only improve it if people test it and challenge it."
Disclaimer. This image is taken from Cooling Singapore 2.0
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