Cannon-Brookes, "Twiggy" Forrest lead capital raise for world's biggest solar project | RenewEconomy

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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8 Comments
  1. Chris Drongers 3 months ago

    Fabbo! A project that doesn’t (directly) attack coal or gas and creates de novo a new industry in Australia, that of exported high quality energy. How Singapore will manage the outages of the line that will inevitably occur will be interesting to see.
    On a related note, Western Australia ‘s energy plan due out mid 2020 may include overbuilding renewable electricity generation and transmission to guarantee supply but will need a market for the normally excess production. This Northern Territory project will be closing out WA’s opportunity to develop it’s own power export industry in the medium term. Get a move on WA.

  2. Chris Jones 3 months ago

    The battery is presumably just there to make sure it doesn’t suffer peaks and troughs, and allows some peak demand cross-over. Still seems like a more efficient way to export energy than hydrogen, even if expensive.

  3. Warwick Forster 3 months ago

    I just wonder if the 22GWh of battery energy storage is correct…? Perhaps it is a hydrogen facility??

    If we assume a similar cost to the latest addition to the big battery in SA at Hornsdale, at around $1m/MWh, then 22GWh is 22,000MWh or $22bn, most of the project cost, which doesn’t leave much from $25bn for 4,500km of HV DC cable and 10,000MW of solar panel. (As a comparison, Basslink cost about $800m for 370km of up to 600MW capacity)

  4. MrMauricio 3 months ago

    The “Energy Minister” wouldnt turn up to the ground breaking ceremony

  5. JackD 3 months ago

    As each day goes by, the role of the Federal Government by the atitudes of their ministers and of their conspicious inactivity, is becoming increasingly marginalised and irrelevant.

    So much for the federation and national leadership!!

  6. Ron Combey 3 months ago

    Sophie, I think this is a great project, but I don’t understand why they don’t plan the same for NSW. Without the expence of a long undersea link, I would have thought NSW would be a no brainer. With large mines such as cadia and industry such as the Aluminium smelter at Tomago, the opportunity to supply 3GW of renewables would be a winner.
    Thanks for the updates

  7. Honest Mike 3 months ago

    Exciting stuff! apparently this would be the longest DC link on the planet…. $25B??? it would be interesting to see who is financially backing this project

  8. trackdaze 3 months ago

    Maybe they could practice by doing a second Tasman link and a underground one SA to NSW for half the expected costs?

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