Australia-ASEAN Power Link A Step Closer

Australia-ASEAN Power Link - Sun Cable

The Northern Territory Government and Sun Cable yesterday inked an agreement bringing the world’s largest solar farm and battery storage facility closer to reality.

Sun Cable is proposing to build a $22 billion 13.1GW solar farm across 12,000 hectares in the Northern Territory, along with 33 gigawatt hours of energy storage.

The Australia-ASEAN Power Link (AAPL) project will incorporate a 4,500 km transmission system to supply Darwin, Singapore and ASEAN markets. 3,750 kilometres of that will be HVDC submarine cable.

The document signed yesterday was a Project Development Agreement, which provides a roadmap for the two parties to finalise tenure of the land  – situated near the tiny town of Elliot in NT’s Barkly region – and commercial arrangements ahead of the project’s financial close.

Cheap, Reliable Power, Lots Of Jobs And (Hopefully) Export Dollars

“Today’s announcement is a big step forward for the Territory – for our energy security and our job security,” said NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner. “This project will put the NT on the international map when it comes to renewables.”

It’s expected 1,500 jobs will be created during construction and 350 ongoing positions once operations begin. The Northern Territory Government says Australia-ASEAN Power Link will export $1 billion dollars’ worth of solar electricity each year.

That’s assuming it has buyers. The ABC points out Sun Cable is yet to sign any agreements with Singapore concerning the project and while Singapore is reportedly enthusiastic, it has tough criteria relating to reliability of supply. Sun Cable CEO David Griffin says his company is up to the challenge.

As for the timeline for AAPL, at this stage it’s hoped construction will start in late 2023, with electricity transmission to Darwin – which will take some of the supply – by 2026 and to Singapore in 2027.

“This will provide affordable, reliable energy to support industrial growth in Darwin, as well as supplying up to 20% of Singapore’s electricity needs, said Mr. Griffin.

Perhaps someone should mention AAPL to Senator Matt Canavan.

In July last year, AAPL was granted Major Project Status by the Morrison Government.

How Many Solar Panels To Make Up 13GW?

13GW is a lot of solar panels. As far as I’m aware, the highest capacity solar panels currently commercially available are around the 600-watt mark 1. 13GW (assumed DC capacity) would require around 21.67 *million* 600W solar panels.

A lot of racking will be needed to install the panels on; and on that point Australian company 5B announced back in 2019 that its Maverick system had been selected for AAPL. Maverick is a modular, pre-fabricated solar panel and racking solution including ballast that 5B says reduces time on-site by 50 to 90% compared to traditional solar farms. The company claims a megawatt of solar capacity can be installed in a week using the system with a team of only 3 people.

Among the projects using 5B’s Maverick system is SA Water’s Happy Valley PV installation, which consists of 30,000 solar panels.

Footnotes

  1. JA Solar unveiled a monter 810W module called Jumbo last August, but that isn’t commercially available yet
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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