Sun Cable’s $22 billion plans to build the world’s largest dispatchable solar and battery power station, as well as the world’s largest subsea transmission link, have taken a step forward after selecting a preferred site about 750km south of Darwin.
Sun Cable proposes to build a 10GW solar plant in central Australia combined with a battery storage system 150-times the size of the Tesla Big Battery in South Australia, and then connect this to Singapore via an undersea cable. Each part of the project would be built at an unprecedented scale.
Finding the ideal location for the project’s mammoth solar farm, which in July was granted Major Project Status by the federal government, was bound to be a tall order.
But Sun Cable CEO David Griffin confirmed to RenewEconomy this week that the company was considering four possible sites on the Newcastle Waters group of Northern Territory cattle stations, once owned by media mogul Kerry Packer and briefly worked by his son, James.
The company says the goal is to narrow it down to one 12,000 hectare site, in a choice between the Newcastle Waters Station, Powell Creek Station and one other. At this stage, Sun Cable has an option for sublease.
Griffin told RenewEconomy the Newcastle Waters site was attractive for the balance it struck between solar resource and transmission distance, in that it is far enough south to dodge most of the wet season cloud cover.
“The site is also located on the railway, which will be important for construction logistics. It is also 30km away from the Stuart Highway, as another significant logistics corridor,” he said.
The ambitious solar, storage and export project has been making steady progress over the past year, backed by a cashed up team of believers including Australian software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes and mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest.
As well as the 10GW solar plant, the project promises to build battery storage facilities of up to 30GWh, and a high voltage direct current sub-sea cable of 3,750kms – to pipe the solar power across to potential customers in Singapore.
And it’s quite possible Sun Cable won’t stop there.
In an interview with RenewEconomy’s Energy Insiders podcast in May, Griffin said the ultimate plan was for the Northern Territory project to be the first of many.
“Ultimately, we envisage a network that expands, that takes advantage of where the best renewable energy resources are, be it solar and wind in Australia, wind in New Zealand, or solar and wind in India, and we are seeing that … the potential for load growth in the areas in between is enormous,” he said.
“Indonesia will be the fourth largest economy in the world in the 2020s. We seem to miss that in Australia – the enormity of our northern neighbours. We are absolutely developing long term plans to serve those ever-growing loads north of Australia and doing that by exploiting the renewable energy resources wherever they located, and the HVDC technology.”