Published 09-02-2021
| Article appears in February 2021 Issue

Undersea cable to export power from $22bn NT solar farm

09-02-2021
A key planning agreement to export Australian solar power to Singapore has been signed off by the Northern Territory government.

What was thought to be a ‘crazy’ project not too long ago is no more. And now it’s creating a big buzz, as Territorians will surely benefit the most from it.  

A key planning agreement to export Australian solar power to Singapore has been signed off by the Northern Territory government.

The agreement is for a $22 billion Sun Cable project to send electricity from a massive 10GW solar farm via a 3,700km undersea transmission cable.

The unprecedented project for Australia and the world – in scale and its export of electricity targets – has been granted “major project status”, with the longest transmission cable dubbed as the Australia-ASEAN Power Link.

The 10GW solar project is under construction near Elliott in the Barkly Region, where electricity power will be sent offshore using a series of huge battery installations. 

The NT chief minister Michael Gunner says the project will create security in energy supply and jobs for the Territory.

There is an expectation that under the signed agreement Sun Cable will present a ‘Territory Benefits Plan’ outlining economic opportunities and an Aboriginal workforce and local engagement strategy. 

“This project will put the NT on the international map when it comes to renewables. It will also see hundreds of Territorians find work in the Barkly and Darwin regions during the construction and operational phases,” Mr Gunner said.

“This project will transform the Territory into a renewable energy powerhouse and cement our position as Australia’s comeback capital.”

The project is expected to include linkages to the Darwin-Katherine grid and the Middle Arm Battery, to be between 50MW and 500MW, that will provide system reliability services to the local grid.

Sun Cable CEO David Griffin said the project would see Australia become an exporter of low cost and zero emissions power into the Asian region. The project could serve up to one-fifth of Singapore’s total electricity consumption.

“This will provide affordable, reliable energy to support industrial growth in Darwin, as well as supplying up to 20 per cent of Singapore’s electricity needs,” Mr Griffin said.

“The Australia-ASEAN Power Link project will help the Northern Territory make deep cuts to its emissions intensity by decoupling economic growth from carbon pollution.”

Northern Territory minister for renewables and energy, Eva Lawler, said the project would deliver substantial benefits to the local economy, both through the investment in the project itself, as well as through lower cost supplies of power.

“This agreement shows strong confidence for investing in the Northern Territory and investing in renewable energy, which is not only good for the environment but good for the economy,” Ms Lawler said.

“Locals can look forward to affordable energy that’s reliable and renewable by the end of the decade. Our Government is doing whatever it takes to keep Territorians in jobs and ensure the economy is continuing to tick over.”

The project is also expected to generate up to $1 billion in annual exports throughout the project’s 70-year life.

Sun Cable expects to reach financial close on the Australia-ASEAN Power Link in late 2023, with first electricity generated in Australia by 2026. The first exports of electricity to Singapore are expected by 2027.

When Australian tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes – the power behind the project – addressed the National Smart Energy Summit in Sydney previously, he said that each of the components of the Sun Cable project would “likely be the largest of their kind when completed”.

Resources billionaire Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest is also an investor for the NT Sun Cable Project.

Excerpts from Renew Economy, Michael Mazengarb and Giles Parkinson

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