Sun Cable: World’s biggest solar and battery project expands again, gets Indonesia approval

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The world’s biggest solar PV and battery storage project, Sun Cable, has been expanded up to to a mind-bending 20 gigawatts for the solar component of the Northern Territory proposal, and 36-42GWh of battery storage.

Sun Cable revealed the new parameters of the world-leading project on Thursday, in an announcement revealing that it had been granted a sub-sea survey permit by Indonesia, to facilitate the passage of a more than 4,000km undesea cable – destined for Singapore – through Indonesian waters.

The company – backed by billionaire co-founders Andrew Forrest and Mike Cannon-Brookes – said Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment, Luhut Binsar Panjaitain, had confirmed the Indonesian government’s recommended route of the transmission cables through Indonesian waters.

The high-voltage direct current cable, which would also be the largest of its kind in the world, aims to transmit renewable energy from Elliott in the NT, to Darwin, and then to Singapore, where it is estimated the project could supply up to 15% of Singapore’s electricity needs, starting from 2028.

Sun Cable said in a statement that the now $A30 billion plus Australia-Asia PowerLink (AAPowerLink) was another step closer to being realised, after the Indonesian government had come to the party.

The project started off as a 10GW solar and 20GWh battery idea, before being expanded to 14GW of solar and 33GWh of battery storage. The increase, foreshadowed a few weeks ago, was even bigger than expected.

The company said that by unlocking Australia’s vast, world-class solar resources, Sun Cable was paving the way for a new export industry, with the AAPowerLink forecast to generate up to $A2 billion in exports, more than 1500 jobs in construction, 350 operational jobs, and 12,000 indirect jobs.

“This is a significant milestone for the AAPowerLink and brings us closer to generating and transmitting affordable, dispatchable renewable energy to Darwin and Singapore, via the world’s largest renewable energy transmission network,” said Sun Cable CEO David Griffin in a statement.

“We are developing the technology that integrates solar, storage and High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission technologies, to meet the large-scale demand for renewable energy.

“There is a significant alignment with the Australian government’s Technology Roadmap and Lowering Emissions MOU signed with Singapore in October 2020,” Griffin said.

Cannon-Brookes said on Thursday that the securing Indonesian support for the project was a big step towards realising Australia’s potential to become one of the world’s largest renewable energy exporters.

“Australia can become a renewable energy superpower,” he said. “We can and should tap into our solar resources that could power the world five times over. Sun Cable is harnessing this at scale, and its Australia-Asia PowerLink will create massive local and international renewable energy opportunities.”

Forrest also welcomed the news from Indonesia, and said he looked forward to “thanking Minister Luhut in person soon.”

“Decarbonising our planet is a challenge all people and all nations must rise to. But it is action, not words that are required,” Forrest said.

“I commend Minister Luhut’s leadership, strong action towards this goal and his commitment to attracting investment into Indonesia and harnessing private sector collaboration with Australian companies such as Sun Cable and Fortescue Future Industries.”

But Sun Cable is not alone in super-sizing its renewable energy production and export ambitions, with an astonishing 50 gigawatts of wind and solar capacity proposed for the southern coast of Western Australia to create millions of tonnes of green hydrogen for use in Australia and for export.

The scale of the $100 billion project – to be known as the Western Green Energy Hub – is unprecedented. It would rank as one of Australia’s biggest ever projects of any kind, and not far short of the size of the country’s main grid.

The chief proponents of that project are Australia’s CWP Global and Hong Kong-based Intercontinental Energy, the same parties behind the 26GW Asian Renewable Energy Hub in the Pilbara, which recently had initial environmental approvals rejected by federal environment minister Sussan Ley.

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