Sun Cable taps five firms to help deliver solar energy to S'pore via undersea link

Singapore plans for its solar capacity to quadruple to 1.5GWp by 2025, before rising to 2GWp by 2030.
Singapore plans for its solar capacity to quadruple to 1.5GWp by 2025, before rising to 2GWp by 2030.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Australia's Sun Cable is plugging into the expertise of five companies for one of the world's most ambitious solar energy projects, aimed at supplying up to 15 per cent of Singapore's power needs.

The A$30 billion (S$30.2 billion) Australia-Asia PowerLink (AAPowerLink) project, which will connect Singapore via a 4,200km subsea cable to a solar farm in Darwin, now has an integrated project delivery team comprising the companies that are regarded as world leaders, Sun Cable said on Wednesday (Oct 20).

The solar farm plus undersea cable project is expected to begin construction from late 2023, with the first supply of electricity to Darwin in 2026 and Singapore in 2027 - and full supply capacity by end-2028.

United States engineering and construction firm Bechtel will ensure project delivery, Canada's Hatch will manage the undersea high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission system, and Singapore's SMEC will oversee the solar generation system.

SMEC is a member of Temasek-backed Surbana Jurong Group and has been involved in a number of transport projects, including the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway and Downtown MRT line.

Insurance and risk advisory will be provided by New York-headquartered Marsh, while financial and legal expertise will come from PwC Australia.

The AAPowerLink project cleared a major milestone last month when Indonesia agreed to the route for the HVDC cables to Singapore, and granted a permit to conduct surveys in its waters.

Mr David Griffin, chief executive officer of Sun Cable, said winning the support of the five globally recognised companies is an important vote of confidence.

"This project is designed to significantly accelerate the carbon-zero ambitions of the region and we have brought together a dream team to bring it to fruition," he added.

The power will come from one of the world's largest solar farms, covering 12,000ha at Powell Creek Station, about 800km south of Darwin.

The project is estimated to generate between 17 and 20 gigawatt-peak (GWp) of electricity, part of which will be stored on-site in what is planned to be the world's largest battery at 36 to 42 gigawatt-hours.

Smaller batteries are slated for Darwin and Singapore, with the aim to provide consistent power day and night.

Mr Wong Heang Fine, group CEO of Surbana Jurong, said the Sun Cable project development partnership will make significant contributions to uplift the level of renewable energy consulting and climate engineering expertise in the region.

SMEC CEO Hari Poologasundram said global challenges across the energy landscape require bold solutions.

"It's exciting to play our part in another game-changing renewable energy scheme that will make a difference to many communities," he added.

Mr James Phillis, CEO of SMEC Australia and New Zealand, said: "At SMEC, we're proud to continue our legacy as trailblazers in the renewables sector. From inception, we have partnered with our clients to help them transition to a more renewable future."

Singapore plans for its solar capacity to quadruple to 1.5GWp by 2025, before rising to 2GWp by 2030. A total of 2GWp of solar energy would meet about 3 per cent of the nation's total electricity demand in 2030, enough to power around 350,000 households.

Supplying up to 15 per cent of Singapore's electricity needs could reduce emissions here by six million tonnes a year, matching the entire climate abatement gap in the country's announced Green Plan 2030 targets.

The Republic has been looking to meet more of its power needs with renewable energy by scaling up solar power generation across the island and importing it, including green power via an interconnector with Malaysia.

Currently, Singapore relies overwhelmingly on gas for power generation.

Recently, a confluence of increased gas consumption from recovering economic activity worldwide, severe weather events and a series of gas production outages has disrupted supplies and sent international market prices to new highs.

The supply crunch and higher prices have resulted in a surge in wholesale electricity prices in Singapore. At least two power retailers this month have announced that they will cease operations.