Australian company Sun Cable is preparing to construct what is probably the most ambitious renewable energy project the world has ever seen. Singapore wants to import solar power through the Australia-Asia PowerLink (AAPowerLink). The planned AAPowerLink will connect a vast solar array in Australia’s Northern Territories to Singapore via an undersea cable. With construction expected to start in 2024 and due for completion in 2029, the AAPowerLink project will break records for the largest solar farm and most technologically advanced renewable energy transmission system. The completed development will provide Darwin and Singapore with a high-quality, reliable source of renewable power. As environmental and social consultant for the project, ESC is helping Sun Cable get the regulatory approval it needs to begin development.
Solar power scaled up
Sun Cable’s AAPowerLink project, which is estimated to cost at least AUD$30 billion, will supply up to 3.2 gigawatts (GW) of dispatchable renewable power and will have solar panels spread across 12,000 hectares in the town of Tennant Creek, which is located about 800 km from Darwin in the sunniest region in Australia.
Once operational, the farm will be able to generate up to 20 GW of large-scale solar power and up to 42 GWh of battery storage and run electricity via a 4,200 km subsea cable to Singapore that passes through Indonesian territorial waters.
In June 2022, Sun Cable announced that the AAPowerLink plans were recently deemed “investment-ready” by government advisory body Infrastructure Australia, which could open the door to potential public investment in the project.
Image Credit: Sun Cable
Singapore opens its doors to import solar power
In Singapore, annual electricity consumption has almost doubled since the turn of the millennium, from 31.7TWh in 2000 to 51.8TWh today, with 95% of this coming from the burning of natural gas. But with a commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and Goal 7 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals high on Singapore’s list of priorities, access to low-cost, clean, and reliable electricity over the medium to long term is critical to its long-term planning and economic competitiveness.
Singapore’s ability to produce its own renewable power is limited by geographical constraints and so it must depend heavily on imports from nearbouring countries in the region. As part of its Green Plan 2030, the country has come up with a plan to implement 4 Switches to decarbonise the power sector and diversify its energy sources.
In recent years, the Energy Market Authority (EMA) has been working with regional partners to test cross-border solar power trade. The trials allow EMA to refine Singapore’s technological and legal frameworks in preparation for future larger scale solar power imports.
With solar power imports introduced to Singapore market, the AAPowerLink will provide a major upgrade in renewable power supply, with Sun Cable hoping to supply 15% of Singapore’s electricity needs from 2028, reducing the country’s carbon emissions by approximately six million tonnes a year.
Facilitating the diffusion of solar power projects
As Sun Cable’s environmental and social (E&S) consultant, ESC is developing the AMDAL and ESHIA studies to secure environmental regulatory approvals and international project financing. Since 2020, ESC has supported Sun Cable on all E&S aspects, including subsea cable permitting across all geographies, AMDAL and ESHIA studies, stakeholder engagement from central to village level governments, collecting E&S baseline data, and securing a marine location permit. ESC is also leading the public consultation process to ensure that the communities most affected by the development are able to voice their opinions and concerns about its impacts.
While the rate of energy transition quickens across Asia, ESC has been working to limit the potential environmental and social impacts of key green infrastructure developments such as Sun Cable’s AAPowerLink. In serving as a trusted consultant to governments and private enterprises across the continent for 20 years, ESC has developed a strong rapport with various national and international regulatory agencies which grant environmental permits for large-scale solar power import developments.
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