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Territory government ramps up support for 20GW solar and battery project

https://www.pv-magazine-australia.com/2022/03/28/territory-government-ramps-up-support-for-20gw-solar-and-battery-project/

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Sun Cable’s ambitious $30 billion-plus Australia-Asia PowerLink (AAPowerLink), which would export solar energy from the Northern Territory (NT) to power Singapore, has secured another tick of approval with the Territory government announcing on Monday it will introduce legislation that will provide marketplace certainty for the developers.

Singapore-based Sun Cable is seeking to develop a massive solar PV and battery complex on a 12,000-hectare site at Powell Creek in the NT’s Barkly region. The project includes a solar farm with up to 20GW of solar generation and between 36GWh and 42GWh of energy storage.

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

The project, which is anticipated will provide 800MW of dispatchable renewable energy capacity to the Darwin region from 2026 and up to 15% of Singapore’s electricity needs from 2027, 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.

The Territory government has already signed a Project Development Agreement (PDA) which allows it to work in partnership with Sun Cable to finalise land tenure and commercial arrangements for the AAPowerLink but it has now moved to provide the developers with even more surety.

The NT government said the Solar Project (Australia-Asia Power Link) (Special Provisions) Bill 2022 to be introduced into parliament this week will provide certainty that key commitments in its PDA with Sun Cable will be met.

“The legislation will clarify and streamline existing processes, increase project certainty, and support Sun Cable to secure project financing,” the government said in a statement.

An artist’s impression of the massive Australia-Asia PowerLink being developed in the Northern Territory.

Image: Sun Cable

Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the project will be a major economic driver, and it will put the Territory on the international map when it comes to renewables.

“The legislation provides certainty for the project and facilitates its implementation which will create over 1,750 jobs during construction and 350 ongoing positions as part of operations,” he said.

Sun Cable chief executive David Griffin welcomed the introduction of the Solar Project Bill 2022, saying it will deliver increased security for “a pioneer project that will position the Territory as a world leader in the intercontinental transmission of renewable electricity”.

“This bill provides certainty that key commitments from the Project Development Agreement will be met,” he said.

The Territory government’s announcement comes less than two weeks after Sun Cable revealed it had raised $210 million in a Series B capital raise. Iron ore magnate Andrew Forrest, through his private company Squadron Energy, and tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes’ Grok Ventures were among the existing investors to take part.

Sun Cable has said construction for the project will begin immediately after financial close in October 2023 with commercial operations to commence in 2027.

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.

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