It’s a popular idea: to fill sparsely populated, sunny areas like the desert with solar panels to generate sustainable energy in densely populated areas. In Australia, Australian energy company Sun Cable is making serious efforts to turn this idea into a reality. The company, backed by founders and billionaires Andrew Forrest and Mike Cannon-Brooks, will build a solar park on 12,000 hectares of land 800 km south of the port city of Darwin that will power Singapore.
The largest solar park in the world
The location in northern Australia was chosen because it is one of the sunniest places on Earth. The company wants to build a 17-20 GW solar park here. To give an idea of the scale of this project, it is ten times the size of India’s Bhadla Solar Park, which at 2.25 gigawatts is the largest in the world by far. And that’s not the only record that PowerLink sets. And the storage capacity in the form of a battery from 36 to 42 gigawatt-hours is 30 times larger than the largest battery to date.
But the most exciting part of the whole project is the connection to Singapore. Because the panels in Australia will provide 3.6 gigawatts of solar power to Singapore, which is more than 3,000 km away while the crow flies. For this purpose, electricity will be transmitted by cables. First overland to Darwin and then 4,200 km above the sea floor between the islands of Indonesia to Singapore.
Because they are in dire need of sustainable energy. Unlike Australia, Singapore has very little land at its disposal and therefore depends on other countries for sustainable energy generation. The city-state has plans to create a giant floating solar park on a freshwater reservoir near Indonesia. With Australian solar power, Singapore can make 15 per cent of its electricity consumption more sustainable in one fell swoop.
More and more concrete
First announced as a 10GW project in August 2020, PowerLink has grown and become more realistic over the course of the year. For example, at the end of September it was announced that the Indonesian government had approved the construction of submarine cables, and last week five companies joined the consortium that will ensure that this is achieved. The Australian government, not known to be a leader in renewable energy, said earlier this year that it was backing PowerLink because it could preserve Australia’s role as an energy source.
So things look good for the project so far. Sun Cable expects to raise sufficient capital by 2023, after which it plans to start construction. Darwin will be the first to supply power in 2026 and the connection to Singapore will be operational a year later.
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