The Australian government has assigned major project status to a proposed A$22bn plan to build the world’s biggest solar farm in Australia’s Northern Territory (NT) and send the electricity through a 3,700-km-long undersea cable to Singapore where, promoters say, it will meet 20% of Singapore’s demand for power.
The 12,000-hectare solar farm, to be located near the town of Elliott in NT’s Barkley Region, will be visible from space, says Sun Cable, the start-up company formed to develop the scheme.
Electricity will be stored in a 30GWh battery – the world’s biggest, according to Sun Cable – allowing transmission at night.
From Elliott, the electricity will be sent by cable 750km to the coast at Darwin to begin its submarine journey to Singapore.
Sun Cable, which secured its first round of investor funding in November, believes the operation, called Australian-ASEAN Power Link (AAPL), can be up and running in 2027.
A final investment decision has yet to be made, and the scheme still needs various approvals.
However, in May this year Sun Cable awarded a contract to the company Guardian Geomatics to survey the ocean floor along the proposed cable route.
The company said the AAPL would link to Indonesia in the future, as well.
Sun Cable chief executive David Griffin told Australian broadcaster ABC that the project is feasible thanks to the emergence of high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) cable technology, which transmits electricity efficiently over long distances.
The government announced the award of major project status on Thursday, 29 July.
“This project draws on Australia’s world-class solar technology and our high-tech manufacturing capability to export renewable energy on an unprecedented scale,” said Karen Andrews, Australia’s Minister for Industry, Science and Technology.
She said the project would create 1,500 jobs during construction, and 350 ongoing jobs.
If it goes ahead, a new solar panel factory would be built in Darwin, with the panels made there coming to Elliott by the existing railway.
David Griffin called the government’s recognition a “significant milestone” for the AAPL.
It grants companies the support of Australia’s Major Projects Facilitation Agency, including a single entry point for federal approvals and help with state and territory approvals.
“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,” Griffin said.