Evaluation A plan backed by Atlassian co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes – aimed toward offering 15 % of Singapore’s electrical energy wants utilizing photo voltaic power generated in Australia – has collapsed.
The Australia-Asia PowerLink (AAPL) venture envisioned putting in 120km2 of photo voltaic panels able to producing 3.2 gigawatts in Australia’s Northern Territory, storing the output in a large battery close to the town of Darwin, then piping it 4,000km by way of an undersea cable to Singapore.
At first blush it sounds bonkers, however its particular person parts do not appear thus far out of the query.
The Northern Territory is big and sparsely populated, so putting in 120km2 of photo voltaic panels is possible – if difficult.
An enormous battery can be doable, and Cannon-Brookes has expertise on such a venture: he and Elon Musk famously labored collectively in 2017 to put in a 150MW battery within the state of South Australia. The battery has labored properly since, serving to the state to capitalize on investments in wind generators.
And naturally undersea cables are well-known: humanity is fairly good at working them throughout oceans to hold knowledge.
Why, it is so loopy it simply would possibly work.
The venture was estimated to value over AUD$30 billion ($21B) and attracted over $150 million of funding – a lot of it from Cannon-Brookes’ funding automobile Grok Ventures and Australian mining billionaire Andrew Forrest. The pair poured cash into an entity known as SunCable that was charged with making the PowerLink occur.
Infrastructure Australia – a authorities physique that assesses the viability and worthiness of infrastructure tasks – rated it “investment-ready” as of June 2022.
That evaluation was vindicated 4 months later, in October 2022, when Singaporean power patrons signed up for as a lot juice because the AAPL may carry, after which some.
The venture attracted plenty of consideration resulting from its sheer audacity, the involvement of at the least two billionaires (and the chance Elon Musk’s Tesla may construct the battery). There was pleasure that Australia may grow to be a clear power exporter, and by doing so ship on long-held hopes of turning its largely empty north into an financial powerhouse.
However that enthusiasm all however ignored the venture’s huge complexity. The photo voltaic farm and battery would have been the world’s largest, that means plenty of alternatives for value blowouts and unexpected challenges.
The lengthy, lengthy, extension twine from Australia to Singapore was predicted to be devilishly complicated to construct, and worryingly fragile.
That evaluation got here from Bevan Slattery, an Australian entrepreneur (and possibly this story’s fourth billionaire) who has run firms that construct and function submarine knowledge cables.
In a prolonged LinkedIn submit, Slattery defined that the route from Australia to Singapore traverses deep water, oil pipelines, quite a few telecoms cables, and essentially the most harmful waters on the planet for these cables. In his opinion the cable would additionally want fully new ships to construct and keep it.
He additionally rated the cable “unrecoverable” if damaged – and cables break on a regular basis. This one would have a better than regular probability of breaking due to near-constant tectonic exercise on its route.
SunCable final week introduced it had entered voluntary administration – a situation akin to chapter.
The corporate cited “absence of alignment with the aims of all shareholders” as one cause for getting into administration. It added: “While funding proposals had been supplied, consensus on the long run path and funding construction of the corporate couldn’t be achieved.”
That is extensively held to be code for “Forrest and Cannon-Brookes couldn’t agree on methods to fund SunCable and make the venture occur.” Forrest can be identified to have invested in hydrogen power, so maybe prefers the thought of utilizing photo voltaic electrical energy to energy electrolysis and ship the fuel to Singapore, avoiding the dangers of constructing a cable.
The assertion saying SunCable’s entry to voluntary administration notes that it “at the moment has a portfolio of an additional 11GW of proposed tasks, which is equal to over 3 times that of the AAPowerLink.”
Cannon-Brookes’s canned quote reads: “SunCable has achieved a lot because it was based in 2018. I am assured it’ll play an enormous function in delivering inexperienced power for the world, proper right here from Australia. I absolutely again this ambition and the group, and stay up for supporting the corporate’s subsequent chapter.”
However at this level, solely he appears to have an curiosity in writing that chapter. And with Atlassian’s share worth at lower than half its late 2021 peak, his capacity to fund additional adventures shouldn’t be as intensive because it as soon as was. ®