Plans between Australia and Asia have led to a potential 2400 mile cable being fed under the sea from Australia to Singapore in a bid to provide countries in Asia with solar power.
An ambitious plan has been set up by some entrepreneurs in Australia which aims to replace around one fifth of the existing grid in Singapore. The plan is to use an under the sea cable to transfer solar energy through which has been produced in the vastly empty area of the Northern Territory in Australia.
The plan sounds very futuristic; however, it is based off existing technology that is already being used in a similar way. The technology is a high voltage direct current (HVDC) power cable which is currently being used in China and some places in Europe to help improve their respective electricity grids. For example, in Europe it is used to carry electricity generated from wind power at a capacity as high as possible whilst minimising any losses. The technology also means less infrastructure is needed and reduces power waste.
Europe has long term plans to incorporate HVDC cables a large part of the whole electricity grid, this will require extra specialised technology to be used to help redistribute the electricity once it reaches its destination. The plan in Australia is a bit different, the aim there is to have one long cable connecting two land far apart land masses. The cable will start in the Northern Territory which is very sparsely populated and will end in the import only energy grid on Singapore which is very densely populated.
The benefits of using the Northern Territory in Australia is that not only does it have extremely low population levels, but it also receives large amounts of sunlight comparable to the savanna climate. The lack of population in the area means that there is plenty of room for solar panels to be built for large scale solar farms. Developers have said that the solar panels that they plan to use will be easy to install, modular and lower risk than panels that are more involved to install. The plan is to install about 58 square miles (15000 hectares) of solar panels which will generate 3 gigawatts of electricity. This amount of electricity is comparable to what a nuclear power plant could produce.
The main issue which the plan is not the vast array of solar panels but of course the planned 2400 mile HVDC cable that will be running on the bottom of the ocean. However, it is not the first-time cables have been fed under the sea. Telecommunication cables have been running on the seabed for over fifty years and have managed to successfully work, so why shouldn’t this.
The cost of this project is not cheap either. A report in 2018 by the United States Energy Information Administration estimated the costs of a HVDC cable to range between $1.17 million per mile to $8.62 million per mine. The cost varied so much depending on the power capacity that would be transmitted, the cost of converter stations, environmental considerations, the type of transmission medium and the access of easements right of way.
The HVDC cables used in chine can carry up to 12 gigawatts over a slightly shorter distance, however as it was built by the state it is impossible to find out the cost for the project. Using the estimations from the United States Energy Information Administration places the Australia to Singapore pipeline somewhere between $2.8 billion and $20.7 billion.
Construction is supposed to be starting now with a competition date planned for 2027.