Is sunlight the next big export?

Singapore could soon be powered by sunlight collected in the Australian outback and shipped via five thousand kilometres of submarine cable.

A company called Sun Cable is creating a $30 billion renewable power grid that connects the two nations via undersea cable.

Sun from 12,000 hectares near the tiny town of Elliott on the edge of the Tanami Desert in Australia’s Northern Territory will supply up to 15 per cent of Singapore’s electricity supply.

The project, called Australia-Asia Power Link – or AAPowerLink for short – will create the world’s largest solar farm and battery storage facility in one of the sunniest places on the planet.

The solar farm will be so large that it is expected to be visible from space and will generate 17-20 GW of solar electricity generation supported by 36-42 GWh of battery storage.

The renewable power will travel more than 5000km, 800km overland to Darwin, and a further 4200km via submarine cables 30 centimetres in diameter to Singapore, via Indonesia.

This massive endeavour has drawn millions of dollars in financial support from Australian tech startup billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, and the founder of one of the world’s largest iron ore companies Andrew Forrest.

In March, Sun Cable completed a A$210 million (US$152 million) capital raise which was led by its existing shareholders, Cannon-Brookes’ investment group Grok Ventures and Forrest’s Squadron Energy.

The company says its mission is to “supply renewable electricity from resource-abundant regions to growing load centres at scale”.

We can power the world with clean energy and Sun Cable is harnessing that at scale. It's a blueprint for how we export energy across the world.

Mike Cannon-Brookes

founder grok ventures

sun-cable-project

Singapore is currently reliant upon gas for approximately 95 per cent of its electricity generation, while Australia has the second highest per capita solar resource in the world.

The project presents both an export opportunity and the chance to decarbonise the Asia-Pacific region where electricity demand is expected to more than double by 2050.

Sun Cable founder and CEO David Griffin said, “We have developed a world leading capability in four short years.

“We are thrilled to have materially strengthened our resources with the support of all of our shareholders, who are such strong advocates for our mission.

“This capital raise will enable the delivery of renewable solar power from Australia to Singapore, advance our other multi gigawatt scale projects, and support the progress of key facilitating assets.”

Mike Cannon-Brookes said, “This brings Australia one step closer to realising our renewables exporting potential. We can power the world with clean energy and Sun Cable is harnessing that at scale. It’s a blueprint for how we export energy across the world. We fully back this vision.”

Andrew Forrest said, “I’m proud to be a cornerstone investor in Sun Cable, its team and its vision. This capital raise is a critical step in developing the Australia-Asia PowerLink and I applaud Sun Cable realising this mission.”

Construction is due to begin late next year, with solar energy to reach Singapore in 2027.

The tech:

Around 58 million petajoules of sunshine falls on Australia every year, with only a fraction of these rays being converted into renewable energy. Sun Cable is a multinational company founded in Australia and Singapore in 2018 to tap into this resource on a massive scale. Its AAPowerLink project will use the sun from 12000 hectares in the Northern Territory to provide 24/7 transmission to Darwin and Singapore via a high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission system. The solar farm will generate 17-20 GW of solar electricity generation supported by 36-42 GWh of battery storage. Sun Cable, together with Bechtel, Hatch and SMEC will supply engineering and project management capabilities, with Marsh and PwC providing risk and financial services.

Who funds it:

The company’s backers include Atlassian founder Mike Cannon-Brookes via his investment group Grok Ventures, and Squadron Energy which is owned by Andrew Forrest, the founder of one of the world’s largest iron ore companies, Fortescue Metals.

Is it ready to roll:

Sun Cable recently lodged an Environmental Impact Statement with the Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority, and construction is expected to begin late next year, with the first energy to be delivered to Singapore in 2027.

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