Big solar goes Big Bust: Largest solar plant in the world dies before it can be built

By Jo Nova

This was one glorious green future that just collapsed today.

Sun Cable, solar farm.

But it’s a win for the rare Typhonium plant, and possibly also for millions of crabs around Indonesia who might have been hypnotized by undersea cables like the ones near the UK are. And who knows what that cable would have done electromagnetically for turtles, dugongs, whales and dolphins? Where are the Greens when giant experimental industrial parks span 5,000km of wilderness?

Today the massive Sun Cable project collapsed into voluntary administration four years after promising to build the world’s largest solar power plant in the Northern Territory. Sun Cable was a $35 billion project supposedly to collect those sacred green electrons on a 12,000 hectare “farm” in Australia and send them to Singapore via an 800 km land cable and then a 4,200km undersea cable. It was supposedly going to be nine times bigger than the largest solar plant in the world, and use a cable 6 times longer than the longest one ever built.

So this was ambition-on-steroids, and had economies of scale up the kazoo, and possibly as much sunlight as any place on Earth, but it was still obscenely expensive. Allegedly, it would have achieved the equivalent of taking 2.5 million cars off the road each year, in other words, virtually nothing. For $30b they were reducing the small Australian car fleet by… 12%.

The numbers never made sense unless the world valued green electrons so much more than black, brown, blue, red or white ones. $30 billion for just 3.2GW of reliable energy? The same money buys quite a few nuclear plants that will last five times longer and reduce CO2 by vastly more. But it was never about “saving the world”, was it — just about building bigger subsidy farms, and winning a fashion contest at inner city dinner parties.

Sun Cable, solar farm. Numbers GW.

The numbers never made sense.

Ultimately the project was supposed to supply 15% of Singapore’s energy needs and also make 800MW for Darwin initially.  When finished there would be “20GWp” in toto (or Gigawatt-peak). The plan also included 36-42 gigawatt hours of battery storage too, no doubt providing more jobs for child slaves in the Congo.

The legacy media is a defacto PR team for unreliable energy, so they’re selling this collapse as the fault of “Big Ego’s” — not because the solar project was a stupid idea.

Chnticleer, Australian Financial Review

It is feasible the world’s most ambitious solar energy generation project will go ahead. But don’t expect billionaires Mike Cannon-Brookes and Andrew Forrest to both be involved.

Sun Cable said the appointment of administrators followed “the absence of alignment with the objectives of all shareholders”.

“Whilst funding proposals were provided, consensus on the future direction and funding structure of the company could not be achieved,” it said.

Sun Cable must have been under considerable financial pressure leading into the end of 2022 judging from documents lodged with the corporate regulator about a series B preference share issue.

Assuming this preference share issue is not related to the capital raising announced last March, Sun Cable was forced to raise $28 million in late December through the issue of 11.9 million series B preference shares at $2.34 each. It is difficult to understand why a company such as Sun Cable, which is in the regulatory approval stage of its evolution, is apparently burning through so much cash.

In essence, Sun Cable’s strategic value is really at the mercy of the choices made by the Singaporeans, including how much they are willing to pay. Whoever buys Sun Cable will have to have deep pockets, because something of this scale and ambition will inevitably lose money well into the 2030s.

h/t Scott A, David B, Graeme#4, David Maddison,

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January 11, 2023 at 05:29AM

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