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World’s biggest solar-plus-battery project gets funding boost

Sun Cable’s ambitious plans to build the world’s largest solar PV and battery energy storage project in Australia’s remote far north are a step closer to fruition after two of the nation’s richest men provided support for a AUD 210 million ($152.2 million) capital raise.

From pv magazine Australia

Sun Cable, which plans to supply renewable electricity to Darwin and Singapore from a massive solar PV farm and battery energy storage facility in Australia’s Northern Territory, has reached another milestone with iron ore magnate Andrew Forrest and tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes contributing to a AUD 210 million (&152.2 million) capital raising.

Project developer Sun Cable announced at the weekend it had raised AUD 210 million in a Series B capital raising with Forrest, through his private company Squadron Energy, and Cannon-Brookes’ Grok Ventures among the existing investors to take part.

Sun Cable is seeking to develop a giant solar and battery complex in the Northern Territory. The Australia-Asia PowerLink (AAPowerLink), being developed on a 12,000-hectare site at Powell Creek in the Barkly region, includes a solar farm with up to 20GW of solar generation and between 36GWh and 42GWh of energy storage.

The intercontinental project will supply power to Darwin and to Singapore via a 4,200-kilometer high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) transmission network, including a 750km overhead transmission line from the solar farm to Darwin and a 3,800km HVDC submarine cable from Darwin to Singapore. The project is expected to generate enough renewable electricity to power more than 3 million homes a year.

Sun Cable Chief Executive David Griffin said the latest funding will underpin early development work and “will take us all the way through to the financial close of the Australia-Asia PowerLink,” targeted for late 2023.

“It will also allow us to accelerate development of our broader portfolio,” he said. “Our mission is to supply renewable electricity from resource-abundant regions to growing load centres at scale.”

Griffin said the company plans to explore other “multi-gigawatt” solar projects based on the know-how developed since the AAPowerLink was first announced in 2019.

“Sun Cable has developed unique intellectual property to facilitate the optimal design of complex dispatchable renewable electricity generation and transmission projects,” he said.

“We have developed a world-leading capability in four short years. We are thrilled to have materially strengthened our resources with the support of all of our shareholders, who are such strong advocates for our mission.

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“This capital raise will enable the delivery of renewable solar power from Australia to Singapore, advance our other multi-gigawatt scale projects, and support the progress of key facilitating assets.”

Griffin did not reveal where the other projects would be located, only that more details are likely to be announced “some months from now.”

Cannon-Brookes, the co-founder of software firm Atlassian, said the capital raise, the first for Sun Cable since late 2019, “brings Australia one step closer to realising our renewable energy potential.”

“We can power the world with clean energy and Sun Cable is harnessing that at scale,” he said. “It’s a blueprint for how we export energy across the world. We fully back this vision.”

Construction of the key elements of the AAPowerLink project is expected to begin in early 2024 with the first power to be supplied to Darwin in 2026. The first supply of electricity to Singapore is expected in 2027 with full capacity expected by the end of 2028.

The project, which is anticipated will be capable of supplying up to 15% of Singapore’s electricity needs, has already secured key approvals with the Australian federal government awarding it Major Project Status while the Indonesian government has approved the submarine transmission cable route and granted approval to undertake the next stage of the subsea cable survey.

Sun Cable has also reached agreement with a powerhouse line-up of international engineering and advisory companies, including United States-based engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) giant Bechtel, North American transmission specialist Hatch, professional services firms Marsh and PwC Australia, and Australia-headquartered engineering outfit SMEC, to help it deliver the project.

Forrest said he expects Sun Cable’s vision to “transform Australia’s capability to become a world-leading generator and exporter of renewable electricity and enable decarbonization … this capital raise is a critical step in developing the Australia-Asia PowerLink and I applaud Sun Cable realising this mission.”

Sun Cable expects the AAPowerLink project will produce as much as AUD 2 billion a year in exports, create more than 1,500 jobs in construction, 350 operational jobs, and 12,000 indirect jobs.

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Source: pv magazine