(Image: Unsplash)

Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes has announced plans to create the world’s biggest solar farm in the Northern Territory, running a 3000 km cable to export energy to Asia. It’s one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Australian history, and will be funded by private companies and Aussie entrepreneurs. 

Speaking to The Australian Financial Review on Wednesday, the Atlassian co-founder said the project company, Sun Cable, would be unveiled in a matter of months, with investors soon to be announced. Atlassian is the first major company to join a UN global compact for “business ambition for 1.5 degrees”. His family company, Grok, will also be contributing to the $20-25 billion project.

“Call it half an NBN project — and a much more inspiring infrastructure project, if I may say so,” Cannon-Brookes told the Fin. “We have the sunniest country outside the Sahara. We have some of the best wind resources in the world — arguably the best in terms of quantity plus quality. And we have a very close proximity to billions of people who don’t have the available space and/or resources to renewably power those countries.”

15,000 hectares of photovoltaic panels will be set up near Tennant Creek, hooked up to a Tesla battery. It would connect Darwin and Alice Springs, then be exported offshore through a cable under Indonesian waters, with Singapore expected to be the main importer. The project could produce around $800 million a year in income for the Northern Territory — far higher than what fracked shale gas is expected to generate.

Renewable energy in Australia is growing per capita 10 times faster than the world average, and three times faster than Germany — the next fastest country. Cannon-Brookes said he planned to install double the capacity than what was currently needed, as exporting energy was cheaper than storing it. The project is targeted for start-up in 2027, potentially providing one-fifth of Singapore’s electricity needs.

Peter Fray

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