Federal government awards major project status to Sun Cable’s 10 GW solar plan

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An ambitious plan to develop a 10 GW solar farm along with between 22-30 GWh of battery storage near Tennant Creek and export solar power harvested in the Australian desert to Singapore via a subsea cable has taken a big step forward. The Australian federal government has awarded Major Project Status to Sun Cable’s proposed Australian-ASEAN Power Link (AAPL) recognizing the project’s potential to inject billions into the economy and create thousands of Australian jobs.

Singapore-based Sun Cable’s $22 billion venture, which is backed by two of Australia’s richest people, Mike Cannon-Brookes and Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, is aiming to export electricity via 3,800-km high voltage direct current submarine cable and cover 20% of Singapore’s power demand. Since announced, Australia’s largest renewable energy infrastructure project has progressed by leaps and bounds.

Sun Cable’s AAPL plan was unveiled in June last year and was soon awarded Major Project Status by the Northern Territory government. The developer confirmed its solar partner would be Sydney-based 5B, which plans to manufacture its pre-fabricated, re-deployable solar arrays in Darwin and Adelaide. The project quickly found definite interest with iSwitch, Singapore’s largest green energy retailer, which pledged its support as a foundation off-taker for the solar energy produced by the project.

Soon after, in an oversubscribed capital raising, a group of individual investors jointly pumped in less than $50 million allowing for development work on the undersea power link to start before an expected financial close in 2023. In May this year, Sun Cable awarded its cable route survey contract to Perth-based Guardian Geomatics and secured development approval for a 100 MW/200 MWh battery in Darwin as part of its broader plans to build the world’s largest solar and storage project. On top of that, the developer revealed that the project had been expanded to take in a link to Indonesia.

On Wednesday, the project has reached another milestone as it was officially recognized by the Commonwealth Government as strategically important for Australia. Major Project Status will put Sun Cable’s plans on the fast-track providing the developer with extra support from the Major Projects Facilitation Agency, including a single entry point for Commonwealth Government approvals, project support and coordination, and help with state and territory approvals.

“It is a significant milestone for the AAPL, which will see Australia become a world leader in renewable electricity trade, generating approximately $2 billion worth of exports for Australia annually,” Sun Cable CEO Davod Griffin said. “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.”

The project’s economic bonanza is certainly immense. Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the project would create 1,500 Australian jobs during construction, 350 ongoing jobs in Australia, as well as indirectly supporting around 12,000 Australian jobs. It will also see the establishment of new solar manufacturing facilities.

“This project draws on Australia’s world-class solar technology and our high-tech manufacturing capability to export renewable energy on an unprecedented scale,” she said. “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 $8 billion of the $22 billion investment to be injected directly into Australia.”

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said projects like this will help maintain Australia’s long-standing position as an energy exporting powerhouse. “Australia has long been a world leader in energy exports,” Taylor said. “As technologies change, we can capitalise on our strengths in renewables to continue to lead the world in energy exports.”