Sun Cable, previously known as PowerLink, is an ambitious concept that entails transmitting solar power from Darwin, Australia, to Singapore through an undersea cable spanning 4,200 kilometres (2,610 miles). The cable’s route passes through Indonesia’s territorial waters.
However, due to delays in acquiring the necessary approvals from the Indonesian government, there was a falling out between two Australian billionaires, Mike Cannon-Brookes and Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest. Each billionaire held a 25% stake in the project. Consequently, the project entered voluntary receivership in January of this year.
For years, there have been plans to transform the Northern Territory of Australia into one of the biggest solar energy producers globally. This is feasible because of its low population density (0.18 persons per square kilometre) and abundant sunshine throughout most of the year. Local opposition to solar energy is largely irrelevant in this region due to its small population.
Cannon-Brookes, the owner of Grok Investments, and Forrest, the owner of Squadron Energy, agreed on the suitability of the Northern Territory for solar power production but disagreed on its use.
Cannon-Brookes supported the underwater cable. By contrast, Forrest was more interested in using solar power for green hydrogen and ammonia production. Forrest expressed doubts about whether the Australia–Singapore solar cable would be financially viable.
Sun Cable is Brought Back to Life
Thankfully, Sun Cable has been revived under the control of Cannon-Brookes, as mentioned in Time. Cannon-Brookes claims to have invested AUS $65 million into the project during its administration phase.
Negotiations with authorities in Singapore and Indonesia have resumed. Grok Investments plans to submit a proposal to the Energy Market Authority of Singapore for a conditional energy import licence this month.
At the same time, discussions are ongoing with Indonesia to obtain permission for the underwater cable to pass through its waters.
The updated plans involve constructing a manufacturing plant in the Northern Territory to produce the high voltage underwater cable required for the project and global energy transmission developments. Cannon-Brookes stated that this plan has the necessary components to become a significant Australian infrastructure initiative.
According to a recent CleanTechnica report, Cannon-Brookes told reporters the following:
There’s huge upside for both Australia and our neighbors. The next commodities boom in this country will not be founded on coal. It will be founded on the generation and export of our renewable energy. Sun Cable is a world-changing project.
The initial phase of the revitalised project involves the construction of a 900 MW solar farm in Darwin, Australia, to cater to local industries. This would be followed by the installation of an additional 1.7 GW of solar capacity to supply power through an undersea cable to Singapore.
Early cost estimates for the project were around AUS $30 billion. Ultimately, the aim is to add another 3 GW of solar capacity for Australian customers.
Sun Cable is being presented as a means for certain parts of Asia to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, particularly in places with limited space for solar and wind farms.
The original developers envisioned the project as part of a potential supergrid spanning from Japan to India. Presently, Grok Investments states that the Sun Cable project is in a strong position to deliver the AAPowerLink project to Singapore via Indonesia.
Thus, the project will progress in the following order: 900 MW for the Darwin area, followed by the connection of the cable to Singapore in a few years, most likely around 2032. Eventually, the solar capacity in the Northern Territory would reach 6 GW.
To ensure continuous energy supply after sunset, a significant amount of battery storage, approximately 40 MWh, will be included. If all goes according to plan, the solar park in the Northern Territory would become the largest solar power facility globally.
Jeremy Kwong-Law, CEO of Grok Ventures, expressed a high level of certainty that SunCable and its power link will receive the necessary funding as project milestones are achieved. The company will also continue discussions with the Indonesian government to obtain a licence for laying the cable through its territorial waters.
Sun Cable has already received significant customer interest in Singapore, with Singaporeans desiring up to 2.5 GW of power. This exceeds the capacity of the planned undersea cable by 50%. As a result, there could be a need for a second cable in the future.
The Singapore government has expressed its aim to import at least 4 GW of renewable energy by 2035.
For decades, Australia has been a major coal exporter globally, with claims that its coal reserves could last for a thousand years. However, this reliance on coal has been detrimental to the Great Barrier Reef, causing its decline.
Continuing this reliance could eventually lead to a situation where there are no longer enough people alive to benefit from burning coal.
The sun, as the ultimate source of life on Earth, presents a potential solution. By covering a small portion of the Earth’s surface with solar panels, we could generate an abundance of electricity to meet the needs of humanity multiple times over.
The challenge lies not in the generation of solar energy, but rather in the distribution and storage of it. This is especially important during nighttime, when the sun is on the opposite side of the Earth.
While some propose covering the Sahara Desert with solar panels to power Europe, Cannon-Brookes has a similar vision for Australia and its surrounding countries.
Image: Mike Cannon-Brookes. Obtained from Bloomberg, https://shorturl.at/bEV19