Cannon-Brookes, “Twiggy” Forrest lead capital raise for world’s biggest solar project

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Australian billionaires back early funding for “world’s largest” solar project, and the 3000km cable that will link it to customers in Singapore.

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Development work on an ambitious 3,000km undersea cable that would link what would be the world’s biggest solar farm in the Northern Territory to energy customers in Singapore is set to begin after a first-round capital raising for the $25 billion project closed oversubscribed.

Project developers Sun Cable said on Wednesday that it had completed the “significant capital raise,” led by Mike Cannon-Brookes’ investment vehicle Grok Ventures and Squadron Energy, an Australian-based natural resources company led by mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest.

The exact amount of money raised was not disclosed, but was confirmed to RenewEconomy as in the “tens of millions” range, but less than $50 million. The names of any of the other investors are not yet being disclosed, although it was noted that Grok and Squadron had taken positions as “co-lead investors” in the fund-raising round.

The Australia Singapore Power Link (ASPL) aims to supply renewable electricity from a 10GW solar farm to both Darwin and Singapore via a high voltage direct current transmission line – a plan first outlined by Beyond Zero Emissions in August, and which quickly attracted the attention of the likes of Cannon-Brookes.

According to a release from pWc, who guided the fund-raising process, the project will also include a massive 22GWh of battery storage located near Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory,  with electricity supply transported by a high voltage direct current transmission network, extending 4,500 km from the project site.

See The 10GW solar vision that could turn Northern Territory into economic powerhouse  and listen to our Energy Insiders Podcast with BZE’s Eytan Lenko.

In July, the NT Labor government awarded the plans Major Project Status, and kicked off negotiations on a Project Development Agreement with developer Sun Cable, starting with the development of the solar and storage facility.

Many nay-sayers had suggested the project would struggle to raise funds, but Sun Cable said on Wednesday that the over-subscribed capital raise would allow it to undertake development work for the Australia-Singapore Power Link and reach financial close on ambitious project by late 2023.

“This is a massively exciting project with world-changing potential,” Cannon-Brookes said in a statement. “We have the resources, the ingenuity and the drive to get it done – we just have to put it all together.

“If we nail this, we can build a new export industry for Australia, create jobs and set our economy up for the future.”

Twiggy Forrest, who formerly headed up Fortescue Metals Group, said the transition of Australia’s regions to renewables was a “serious priority” for the country.

“This presents the Australian economy with enormous opportunities not just for reducing emissions but also for the economic march of our nation and global competitiveness,” Forest said.

“Sun Cable’s Australia-Singapore Power Link project has the potential to be an important part of this nation building journey.”

David Griffin, the CEO of Sun Cable said the company was “thrilled” to have gathered such a high level of investment support, not least from “two
important leaders” in international business.

“Mike and Andrew have successfully endured the process of building very large-scale outcomes from scratch. I look forward to Sun Cable achieving a similar outcome and therefore hastening the global energy transition,” Griffin said.

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