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This crazy intercontinental solar power plant project envisioned by Australia

Description: Energy Revolution.

Thanks to an aggressive strategy, Australia has the highest per capita solar energy consumption in the world, ahead of Germany and Japan, with 22%. Encouraged by this performance, Australians embarked on a mega project called “Power Link” in 2018. Considered to be the world’s largest project to generate and store electricity from solar energy in batteries, the cost is estimated at $21 billion. Too expensive? Ridiculous? Can’t afford it? The plan took water, but why?

The “Power Link” solar project envisioned the construction of a photovoltaic power station in northern Australia with 9 million panels and 20 gigawatts of capacity, combined with batteries. Handed over to Sun Cable, a private Australian company, it aims to connect Australia to Asia (Singapore and Indonesia) by electricity from 2027. Intercontinental submarine line 4,200 km long.

Technically, this ambitious project involves the use of high voltage direct current lines (HVDC or CCHT), usually installed in offshore links and to a lesser extent on land for very long distances. Power generation was to be transported from Elliott Photovoltaic Farm to Darwin (North), over 750 km. Giga-battery Before being transported by undersea cable to different parts of the country or to Asia, it needs to be installed.

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Reasons for failure

The project is expected to generate enough renewable electricity to power more than 3 million homes annually, including 15% of Singapore’s needs. According to its sponsors it would have reduced CO₂ emissions by 11.5 million tonnes. The Power Link project has received broad support from investors and the Australian Federal Government. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called it “Exceptional Plan”Saying that his country is harnessing solar and wind potential “Four or five times faster per capita than in the European Union, the United States, Japan or China. »

Evolution of electricity generation and national mix in Australia in 2020 / Infographics: The Energy Revolution.

But Sun Cable soon collapsed. The reason given: its two main shareholders: iron tycoon Andrew Forrest and billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes could not agree on a new round of funding for the said project. As a result, the company was placed into voluntary administration in December 2022 to explore the possibility of its liquidation through recapitalization or outright sale.

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The government is trying to save

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

So, even if the Power Link fails completely, Australian officials are optimistic about their ability to make renewable energy the number one energy source by 2030. As ambitious as Power Link. Ideally, Australia would like to build a transcontinental electricity grid extending from India New Zealand.

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