World’s biggest solar and battery project lands planning deal with NT government
The $22 billion Sun Cable project that is aiming to export Australian solar power to Singapore from a massive 10GW solar farm in the Northern Territory has signed a key planning agreement with the Northern Territory government.
The Project Development Agreement grants “major project status” and will help expedite the planning approvals process for the project, and its plan to export solar power via a 3,700km undersea transmission cable, dubbed the Australia-ASEAN Power Link.
It would be an unprecedented project for Australia, and the world, both in terms of scale and in its plans to export electricity from Australia into Singapore. The project would involve a 10GW solar project being constructed near Elliott, in the Barkly Region, with power then sent offshore through the undersea transmission link and via a series of huge battery installations.
Under the newly signed agreement, Sun Cable will be required to present a ‘Territory Benefits Plan’ outlining the economic opportunities to be created by the project, as well as an Aboriginal workforce development plan and a plan for engaging a local workforce.
“Today’s announcement is a big step forward for the Territory – for our energy security and our job security,” Northern Territory chief minister Michael Gunner said.
“This project will put the NT on the international map when it comes to renewables. It will also see hundreds of Territorians find work in the Barkly and Darwin regions during the construction and operational phases.”
“This project will transform the Territory into a renewable energy powerhouse, and cement our position as Australia’s comeback capital,” Gunner added.
The massive project has received early financial backing from Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes, and resources billionaire Andrew Forrest. The project could require a total investment of $22 billion to establish the solar farm and battery storage, and the undersea cable and would be expected to create up to 1,500 construction jobs in the Northern Territory, and 350 long-term operational positions.
The project is also expected to generate up to $1 billion in annual exports throughout the project’s 70-year life.
Sun Cable expects to reach financial close on the Australia-ASEAN Power Link in late 2023, with first electricity generated in Australia by 2026. The first exports of electricity to Singapore are expected by 2027.
The project is expected to include linkages to the Darwin-Katherine grid, and the Middle Arm Battery, to be between 50MW and 500MW, that will provide system reliability services to the local grid.
Sun Cable CEO David Griffin said the project would see Australia become an exporter of low cost and zero emissions power into the Asian region. The project could serve up to one-fifth of Singapore’s total electricity consumption.
“This will provide affordable, reliable energy to support industrial growth in Darwin, as well as supplying up to 20 per cent of Singapore’s electricity needs,” Griffin said.
“The Australia-ASEAN Power Link project will help the Northern Territory make deep cuts to its emissions intensity by decoupling economic growth from carbon pollution.”
Northern Territory minister for renewables and energy, Eva Lawler, said the project would deliver substantial benefits to the local economy, both through the investment in the project itself, as well as through lower cost supplies of power.
“This agreement shows strong confidence for investing in the Northern Territory and investing in renewable energy, which is not only good for the environment but good for the economy,” Lawler said.
“Locals can look forward to affordable energy that’s reliable and renewable by the end of the decade. Our Government is doing whatever it takes to keep Territorians in jobs, and ensure the economy is continuing to tick over.”
Michael Mazengarb is a journalist with RenewEconomy, based in Sydney. Before joining RenewEconomy, Michael worked in the renewable energy sector for more than a decade.