Australia grants major status to AU$22bn solar, storage and transmission project

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Uluru, Northern Territory. Source: Flickr, Robert Young.

A renewable energy project that could provide up to 20% of Singapore’s electricity needs has been fast tracked by the Australian government. 

Major Project Status has been granted to Sun Cable’s proposed Australian-ASEAN Power Link (AAPL), which would be one of the world’s largest dispatchable renewable electricity systems, supported by the “world’s largest battery and solar farm”, to be located in the Barkly region, Northern Territory.

The AU$22 billion (US$15.79 billion) project features a 4,500km high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission system connecting a 10GW solar / 30GWh storage facility near Darwin with Singapore and eventually Indonesia. 

By the end of 2027, Sun Cable predicts the AAPL will be able to export approximately AU$2 billion (US$1.44 billion) of solar energy per year to Singapore, connecting Australia into the ASEAN Power Grid. 

Major Project Status is the Australian government’s recognition of the strategic significance of a project to the country.

Sun Cable CEO David Griffin said granting of the status is a “significant milestone” for the AAPL, which will see Australia “become a world leader in renewable electricity trade”.

“This project is helping to grow a new industry, utilising intercontinental HVDC submarine transmission systems, to supply renewable electricity to major load centres in the Indo-Pacific and support the region's low-emissions goals,” he added.

Founded in 2018 by Griffin, chief operating officer Mac Thompson and chief strategy officer Fraser Thompson, Sun Cable concluded a “significant capital raise” in November 2019, which included lead investment from Mike Cannon-Brookes's Grok Ventures and Andrew Forrest's Squadron Energy. 

30GWh storage facility

The AAPL solar PV plant is a 10GW array located close to Elliott in the Northern Territory. The site is located adjacent to existing logistics infrastructure, including a railway line, Stuart Highway and high capacity fibre optic cables. The associated 30GWh storage facility will support the solar farm’s operations, enabling round-the-clock power, Sun Cable said.

Electricity dispatched from the solar and storage facility will be transmitted to Darwin via a 750km transmission line. 

During construction, the AAPL project will create 1,500 construction jobs and 350 ongoing positions in Australia.

Industry Minister Karen Andrews said the development draws on Australia’s “world-class solar technology” to export renewable energy “on an unprecedented scale”.

“Not only will this power link make Australia a world leader, it will also create significant economic and employment opportunities here at home, with about AU$8 billion (US$5.74 billion) of the US$22 billion investment to be injected directly into Australia,” she added.

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