By Peter Roberts
Such is the enormous scale of Sun Cable’s proposed Northern Territory solar farm and electricity export cable to Singapore than many have trouble believing that this energy – and soon to be manufacturing – megaproject is really getting underway.
Originally envisaged as 14 GW solar farm coupled with 33 GWh of battery storage, a 750km overhead transmission line, and a 3,800km HVDC submarine cable, proponents of the $26 billion project are now scaling up plans as the economics of harvesting power in Australia for energy-poor Singapore stack up better than previously expected.
According to a report in the authoritative pv-magazine, the company backed by Andrew Forrest and Mike Cannon-Brookes will announce scaled up plans in September, a move which will have implications for the company’s manufacturing proposals for Darwin.
Part of the economic sense of the project is the factory efficiency and quality that comes from using the pre-wired Maverick solar PV system designed by Sydney-based manufacturer 5B.
5B’s revolutionary design, conceived by founders Chris McGrath and Eden Tehan in 2013, allows the panels to be rolled out rapidly on sites that require minimal preparation, ground penetration and trenching.
A team of three people can lay our 1MW of panels a week using a front end loader, streamlining engineering and procurement and transferring cost, time, and risk from the construction site to the factory.
In March Sun Cable lodged a development application for a first stage solar array manufacturing and assembly facility at East Arm in Darwin that will pilot a semi-automatic production system.
A second stage would expand the operation and create the logistics chain necessary to rail the pre-fabricated panels to the site near Elliott in the Barkly region of the NT.
With 5B’s order book having grown 500 per cent over the past year and with a growing base of 50 customers across five countries, it is unsurprising that 5B has just gone to market seeking $30 million to $50 million from investors.
A previous $12 million raising included cash from Artesian Venture Capital and former PM Malcolm Turnbull.
According to the company: “The new round is expected to be over-subscribed.”
There are few projects on the drawing board that will create an energy and manufacturing industry exporting a product – electricity – worth more than $1 billion a year.
After decades of lost manufacturing opportunities in solar power, maybe this time the Australian Sun will shine brightly.
Picture: 5B/rapid solar panel deployment
Subscribe to our free @AuManufacturing newsletter here.