Singapore-based Sun Cable has revealed that the AUD 30 billion ($21.9 billion) Australia-Asia PowerLink (AAPL) project, which will supply electricity to Singapore from a massive solar PV farm and battery energy storage facility in Australia’s Northern Territory, is the “first of many” mega-projects it aims to develop.
This week, Sun Cable announced the generation capacity of what is already shaping up to be the world’s largest solar and storage project, with the PV farm increasing from the original 10 GW to between 17 GW and 20 GW. The capacity of the battery energy storage system has also been boosted, from an initial level of 20 GWh to between 36 GWh and 42 GWh of storage.
The project, which is being developed on a 12,000-hectare site at Powell Creek in the Northern Territory’s Barkly region, will supply power to Darwin and Singapore via a 4,500-kilometer high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) transmission network, including a 750 km overhead transmission line from the solar farm to Darwin and a 3,800 km HVDC submarine cable from Darwin to Singapore.
Sun Cable Chief Executive David Griffin told pv magazine on Friday that the project is not expected to be fully operational until 2028. However, he said that the group has already started preparatory work on other “similar size” projects, including some which would be based in Australia.
“We have already commenced work on subsequent projects,” he said. “This is the first of a kind in terms of the scale and intercontinental transmission, but we want this to be the first of many.”
Sun Cable said it recently cleared a key regulatory hurdle when the Indonesian government approved the route for the AAPL transmission cable, which will pass through the country's waters. Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, has confirmed that the country's government has recommended the route of the submarine cable and has granted a subsea survey permit.
Griffin said the approval notice was a significant milestone that brought Sun Cable closer to generating and transmitting “affordable, dispatchable renewable energy to Darwin and Singapore.”
“Given how much of the route passes through Indonesian waters, securing the support of the Indonesian government is critical,” he said. “It means we can now undertake the rest of our subsea survey and that’s crucial to getting into the detailed design. We are developing the technology that integrates solar, storage and high-voltage direct-current transmission technologies, to meet the large-scale demand for renewable energy.”
Sun Cable said the project, backed by billionaires Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest and Mike Cannon-Brookes, has the potential to export AUD 2 billion worth of solar electricity each year and deliver total carbon emissions abatement of 8.6 million tons of CO2 a year. The project will also supply up to 15% of Singapore’s electricity needs from 2028, reducing the city-state’s emissions by about 6 million tons per year.
Cannon-Brooks, the co-founder and CEO of software giant Atlassian, said that securing Indonesian support for the project was a major step toward realizing Australia’s potential to become one of the world’s largest renewable energy exporters.
“Australia can become a renewable energy superpower,” he said. “We can and should tap into our solar resources that could power the world five times over. Sun Cable is harnessing this at scale, and its Australia-Asia PowerLink will create massive local and international renewable energy opportunities.”
Griffin said the decision to increase the capacity of the project, flagged last month, had been driven by customer demand for more consistent renewable energy generation and improvements in solar PV and battery technology.
“It is the result of a couple of years of really deep analysis of where solar and battery storage technology is, optimising the system, and responding to a better understanding of what the market is demanding in terms of electricity supply,” he said. “Improved efficiencies, particularly around solar technology, means we can have higher installed capacity on the same land mass. The other part is responding to our customers who really want a flatter supply 24/7. To meet that we needed to increase the generation and we needed to increase the storage capacity as well.”
While a construction start date is yet to be set, Sun Cable expects to reach financial close at the end of 2023 with the first electricity supplied to Darwin in 2026. The first electricity is set to be exported into Singapore in 2027 ahead of achieving full commercial operations at the end of 2028.
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