Australian tech billionaire to help fund 10 GW Sun Cable Project

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From pv magazine Australia.

The “insane” Sun Cable Project, as tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes himself termed it, is a 10 GW solar farm on a sunburnt tract near Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. The AU$20 billion (US$13.5 billion) megaproject would supply solar energy to Darwin and, via a 3,750km undersea high voltage direct current cable, to Singapore.

The South East Asian city state, which relies on imported liquefied natural gas for 95% of its electricity, is highly exposed to price fluctuations. The Sun Cable Project would aim to deliver 20% of Singapore’s energy from the Australian Outback.

“I’m backing it,” Cannon-Brookes told the Australian Financial Review newspaper in New York, “we’re going to make it work. I’m going to build a wire.” The message from Cannon-Brookes was a clear one, and inherently antagonistic to the sectarian wall-building rhetoric of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Would you like fries with that?

Cannon-Brookes was leading the Australian presence at the UN Climate Summit in the absence of prime minister Scott Morrison. The PM is stateside but has been avoiding the global stage by spending time in Chicago checking out McDonald’s’ new “Smart Drive-Thru” system.

Cannon-Brookes did not specify how much his family fund, Grok, would invest in the Sun Cable Project. However, the outspoken billionaire insisted he is not alone and said other Australian entrepreneurs, financiers and investors will join the megaproject. A solid investment picture is expected this year.

Vanessa Petrie, CEO of environmental thinktank Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), welcomed Cannon-Brookes’ announcement with the organization announcing it was “thrilled to hear the news”. BZE had argued the Northern Territory could host 10 GW of renewables capacity by 2030 before plans for the Sun Cable Project were announced. Petrie believes megaprojects like Sun Cable and the Asian Renewable Energy Hub signal a new era for Australia as a renewable energy exporter.

A global platform

The immense scale of the project meant Sun Cable gave itself ample time to round up financing, with a financial close date in 2023. With Cannon-Brookes’ help the project is looking more feasible by the day, not only because of the tech billionaire’s financial clout but because he has now put the project on a global stage. After all, this is a man whose Twitter goading of Elon Musk after the 2017 South Australia blackouts enticed the Tesla chief to promise – and deliver – the world’s largest battery within 100 days: the Hornsdale Power Reserve.

“This will be absolutely great,” declared Cannon-Brookes to the Australian Financial Review, “with world-leading engineering required all up and down. But we can do it.”

The announcement is not the only mic-drop Cannon-Brookes has performed recently. Earlier this week he announced his software firm Atlassian is committing to run on 100% renewable energy and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The business appears to be expanding its core values from its infamous “don’t **** the customer” to “don’t **** the planet.”

By Blake Matich