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The crazy transcontinental solar power plant project imagined by Australia

The crazy transcontinental solar power plant project imagined by Australia

Illustration: The Energy Revolution.

Thanks to an offensive strategy, Australia has the highest global consumption of solar energy per capita in the world, ahead of Germany and Japan at 22%. Encouraged by this performance, the Australians embarked on a massive project in 2018, “Power Link”. It is supposed to be the largest project to produce and store electricity from solar energy in batteries in the world, and its cost is estimated at $21 billion. very expensive ? silly ? Unable to finance? The project took on the water, but why?

The “Power Link” solar project envisioned a photovoltaic power plant in northern Australia with 9 million panels and a capacity of 20 GW, along with batteries. It was commissioned to a private Australian company, Sun Cable, and was intended to connect Australia to Asia (Singapore and Indonesia) electrically, from 2027, via a 4,200-kilometer transcontinental submarine line.

Technically, this ambitious project consisted of using high-voltage direct current (HVDC or CCHT) lines, commonly installed on marine connections and to a lesser extent on land for very long distances. Electricity production had to be transported from Elliott’s photovoltaic farm to Darwin (north), a distance of more than 750 kilometers, where the giga battery was to be installed, before it was transported either to different regions of the country or to Asia, by submarine cables.

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Reasons for the fiasco

The project is expected to generate enough renewable electricity to power more than 3 million homes annually, including 15% of Singapore’s needs. It would have cut carbon dioxide emissions by 11.5 million tons according to its sponsors. The Power Link project has received broad support from investors and the Australian Federal Government since its inception. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese named it A.S “extraordinary project”claiming that his country was deploying solar and wind energy Four or five times faster per capita than in the European Union, the United States, Japan or China. »

The origin of Australia’s electricity production in 2020 and the evolution of the national mix / Charts: The Energy Revolution.

However, Sun Cable quickly collapsed. Reason given: Its two major shareholders: iron tycoon Andrew Forrest and billionaire Mike Cannon-Brooks, have been unable to agree on a new round of financing for the said project. Consequently, the company has been placed in voluntary administration from December 2022, examining the possibility of recapitalization or liquidation through a complete sale.

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The government is trying to save the situation

According to an Australian government report, the contribution of solar electricity to utilities across the country has increased tenfold in three years to 7.4 GW in 2020, compared to 740 MW in 2017.

Thus, despite the fully anticipated failure of Power Link, Australian authorities remain optimistic about their ability to raise renewables as the number one source of energy by 2030. According to these projections, solar power should overtake coal, by 2025, thanks to ambitious projects such as Power Link. Even better, Australia aspires to develop a transcontinental power grid stretching from India to New Zealand.

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