Green energy company Sun Cable plans to open the world’s largest solar farm and battery storage facility by 2027. The Australia-Asia PowerLink (AAPowerLink), the $22 billion infrastructure project, will transmit energy to Singapore, Indonesia, and northern Australia.
The clean energy will travel to Singapore along high-voltage deep-sea cables traversing 5,000 km (3100 miles) of the ocean floor. Australia will store the abundant sunshine in massive batteries until nighttime and then transmit it through the cables.
Sun Cable decided to build the solar farm in Australia’s Northern Territory, which has the smallest population on the continent. Offering vast land and low population density, it’s the perfect place to build a renewable energy facility. Singapore wants to transition to clean power but lacks space, making the PowerLink a viable option.
The scope of the solar farm
The undersea cable project is among the most progressive to date in the world of renewable energy. The Australia-Asia PowerLink project aims to build a massive “Tennant Creek Solar Precinct” on 12,000 hectares of the desert landscape. The building site is about 500 miles south of Darwin, the capital of the territory. The area receives abundant sunshine and could generate a whopping 17-20 gigawatts of solar power and around 36-42 GWh of battery storage.
That would surpass the size of the world’s current largest solar power farm in India by more than ten times. The ambitious project could mark a turning point in history with the intercontinental transmission of clean energy. Since Southeast Asia’s energy demand is predicted to grow 60% by 2040, it is crucial to have a system to meet that demand.
Eventually, the company believes Australia can provide a pan-Asian electricity grid with cheap solar power. This will significantly reduce the region’s reliance on fossil fuels and improve living standards for millions.
Overhead cables will deliver solar power to Australia’s northern coast. At this point, high-voltage DC submarine cables will take it 2,600 miles northwest to Singapore. Overall, the complex solar power system will provide up to 3.2 GW of clean energy, the equivalent of 9 million solar panels. This output will supply around 15% of Singapore’s electricity and power to three million homes.
The project will also have a considerable impact on the environment. The company says it will eliminate nearly 11.5 million tons of CO2 or the equivalent of removing 2.5 million cars from the streets.
Sun Cable has made remarkable headway on the project so far. The Australian and Northern Territory governments have granted the PowerLink project Major Project status. The company completed a Series A Capital Raise to kickstart the project and 750km of the subsea survey in Australian waters. Since the cables will run through parts of Indonesia, Sun Cable also received their approval for a survey permit.
Environmental studies have also begun, and construction is slated to start after the company raises enough capital in 2023. They plan to sell power to Darwin by the beginning of 2026, and Singapore should start receiving solar energy by 2027.
David Griffin, a solar and wind farm builder, got the idea for the massive project during a drive through Australia’s desert. He says that since the project requires complex specifications, the company will rely on artificial intelligence computers. He added that millions of calculations are necessary for the PowerLink project. Since the project will combine various clean energy technologies for the first time, Griffin says it’s beyond a human’s ability to design it.”
More about the massive PowerLink project
The idea of clean energy in Asia has been on the table for decades. In fact, for 15 years now, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has deliberated about a regional power grid. However, politics and inadequate infrastructure have hindered any progress. Not to mention, Singapore’s weather doesn’t allow for solar power on a large scale. With cloud skies 80% of the time, Singapore had to look elsewhere for clean energy.
Thousands of miles separate the island continent of Australia from Asia, but the undersea cables provide the perfect solution for transmitting energy. However, the cables will have to traverse the Indonesian archipelago and a 10,000-foot-deep trench. Currently, the longest submarine power cable under construction runs from Norway to the UK. It’s about 435 miles long, about six times shorter than the Sun Cable.
Sonar machines will map the ocean’s floor to determine the route for the cables. Depending on the cables’ design, engineers expect a loss of 4 to 10% of electricity during its journey. To prevent damage from anchors in busy Indonesian waters, engineers will have to bury the cables deep under the seabed.
An obstacle to overcome…
The cable’s width also plays an essential role in the project’s success. An Australian submarine cable expert, Stephen Onley, says a very thick line could break apart under its weight when lowered from a ship. However, if it’s too thin, the cable may lack the durability to weather the journey to the seabed. Company executives say the cable will probably measure between five and 12 inches thick.
After ironing out the kinks in the project, Sun Cable’s backers say it could help lower energy prices in Australia. Currently, electricity costs about 30% more than it does in Washington. The investors of the PowerLink say that eventually, solar power could become the most crucial export in Australian history.
As climate anxiety continues to grow, governments and energy companies worldwide race against the clock to get solar energy online. The world’s largest solar farm currently under construction in Australia will provide Singapore with clean energy by 2027. Massive undersea cables will deliver solar energy through Indonesian islands, traversing over 3100 miles. It’s the most ambitious clean energy project to date and will help Singapore phase out fossil fuels.
Eventually, Australia hopes to provide clean power to other Asian countries as well. So, despite all the worries about climate change, many countries have started delivering on their promise to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions.