Infrastructure Australia shows energy transformation a priority initiative

Australia-ASEAN Power Link
Sun Cable's proposed solar farm

The potential for large-scale solar generation to transform the energy landscape in Northern Australia has been recognised by the Australian Government’s independent infrastructure advisor, Infrastructure Australia.

The initiative, proposed by Australian renewable energy company Sun Cable, was included in Infrastructure Australia’s Annual Infrastructure Priority Initiative List, joining three other projects within the NT.

Specifically, Infrastructure Australia has recognised the opportunity that the Northern Territory has to produce large-scale renewable energy due to its large land mass, solar resource and proximity to energy intense markets in the Indo-Pacific region.

This presents an opportunity to harness the Northern Territory’s competitive advantage by developing large-scale, dispatchable renewable energy generation, supported by transmission infrastructure to supply domestic and export markets.

The aim of its priority project list is to highlight a pipeline of nationally significant infrastructure projects and promote government and private sector investment in critical infrastructure with strong economic and community benefits.

As Infrastructure Australia notes in the Priority List, “In light of the planned retirement of some Northern Territory gas-powered generators, large-scale solar energy generation and storage may provide an opportunity to enhance generation for the Darwin-Katherine Integrated System, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce electricity prices, which currently are subsidised by the Northern Territory Government.”

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Northern Territory chief minister Michael Gunner welcomed the inclusion of large-scale solar generation on the priority project list saying, “Sun Cable’s Australia-ASEAN Power Link project will see up to $8 billion invested in the Territory – a massive boost for local jobs and businesses and will make the Territory a renewable energy superpower.”

“Renewable energy from Sun Cable delivered at scale into Darwin will be the catalyst for growth in existing and emerging industries, including low-emissions manufacturing and zero-emissions data centres and digital services,” Mr Gunner said.

Welcoming the Infrastructure Australia announcement, Sun Cable CEO, David Griffin said, “there is an opportunity to harness abundant renewable energy resources for domestic electricity supply, growing Australia’s capacity to contribute to the whole global value chain of renewable electricity, including zero emissions manufacturing, as well as creating an intercontinental renewable electricity transmission export industry for Australia.”

Placing this on the Infrastructure Priority is consistent with the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit, which found that Australia could develop new industries based on affordable and abundant new sources of energy, including large-scale solar and wind.

“Sun Cable’s vision is to create a world-class renewable electricity grid across the Indo-Pacific region, which will decouple economic growth from global greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Griffin said.

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Sun Cable’s Australia-ASEAN Power Link (AAPL) project has Major Project Status with the Australian and Northern Territory Governments. Sun Cable signed a Project Development Agreement with Hon Michael Gunner, Chief Minister and the Hon Eva Lawler, Minister for Renewables and Energy, and Infrastructure on Thursday 28 January. It is working on a Territory Benefits Plan.

The 70-year, $22B project will generate, store and transmit renewable electricity to Australian and overseas markets. This will create about 1500 jobs during construction and 350 during operations.

The project includes:

  • 13 GW solar farm (the world’s largest) on a 12,000-hectare site at Powell Creek, near Elliott in the NT
  • 27 GWh of critical battery storage (the world’s largest) at the solar farm, in Darwin and in Singapore
  • a high voltage direct current (HVDC) submarine transmission cables from Darwin to Singapore, via Indonesia
  • a 750-kilometre overhead transmission line from the solar farm to Darwin

The Australia ASEAN Power Link financial close will be in late 2023, with the first electricity to Darwin by 2026 and Singapore from 2027.

Sun Cable will now pursue the next stage of the process with Infrastructure Australia, identifying the proposed solution and providing details including the business case.