The Plan to Make Australia the Hub of Low-Cost Solar

To our knowledge, it’s the largest wind-solar hybrid in the world.”

It’s one of Australia’s largest planned infrastructure projects currently in proposal, yet it has gone relatively unnoticed by the news cycle. The plan is set to add billions to the Australian economy and make it an epicentre for the production of renewable energy. At its core, the ambition is to power Singapore with solar and wind power collected in the Australian desert, sent to Singapore via undersea cables.

The problem currently facing Singapore is that as it stands, it’s disproportionately-reliant on liquid natural gas for 95% of its electricity production. This, according to SunCable’s website “leaves Singapore’s electricity consumers excessively exposed to the vagaries of global oil and gas pricing.”

As reported by The Guardian, the project proposed by Sun Cable is promising to “be the world’s largest solar farm,” and “if developed as planned, a 10-gigawatt-capacity array of panels will be spread across 15,000 hectares and be backed by battery storage to ensure it can supply power around the clock.”

“Overhead transmission lines will send electricity to Darwin and plug into the NT grid,” Adam Morton writes. “The bulk would be exported via a high-voltage-current submarine cable snaking through the Indonesian archipelago to Singapore.”

The proposed site would be spread across 6,500 square kilometers - half the size of Sydney - and spur the creation of around 3,000 construction and 400 operational jobs. Project developer, Andrew Dickson, said that the project had increased in scale by more than a third, from 11-gigawatts to 15-gigawatts, adding that “to our knowledge, it’s the largest wind-solar hybrid in the world.”

Dickson pointed to recent analysis from Australia’s chief scientist, Alan Finkel, as well as the International Energy Agency, stating that “people are realising, after several decades of promise, that now could be the time for it to be a thing.”

“Sun Cable,” the company explains on its website, “will produce approximately a fifth of Singapore’s electricity through solar power, sourced from the Australian desert and transmitted via a high voltage direct current (HVDC) cable.”

Ross Garnaut, former advisor to the Labor government, professor of economics at the University of Melbourne and chairman of the Australian-German Energy Transition Hub says the project exemplifies Australia’s under-leveraged potential of being a renewable superpower.

“This will be the channel through which product of energy in Australia will greatly reduce emissions in the rest of the world. It will also be a foundation for a new era of economic expansion and prosperity,” Garnaut told The Guardian.

Dubbing the Australian outback “one of the best solar radiance reserves on the planet,” Sun Cable’s chief executive, David Griffin, hopes to get the plan financed, approved and under construction within a decade, adding that he envisions the project being the catalyst for Australia’s dominance in the global renewable energy industry, heralding the project as one of the “greatest unsung technology development[s],” in the country.

“It’s extraordinary technology that is going to change the flow of energy between countries. It is going to have profound implications and the extent of those implications hasn’t been widely identified,” he added.

“If you have the transmission of electricity over very large distances between countries, then the flow of energy changes from liquid fuels - oil and LNG - to electrons. Ultimately, that’s a vastly more efficient way to transport energy.”

“The incumbents just won’t be able to compete,” he said.

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