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Collapse of renewable power cable project

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A project to build a A16 billion ($US11.1 billion) undersea cable linking renewable energy projects in Australia's top end (North, lots of sun) with power buyers in Singapore and possibly Malaysia and Indonesia has collapsed, thanks to its two billionaire founders falling out. The details are not important, but news of the collapse has brought out a lot of critics who were waiting for the right time to point out the huge problems with the idea. Chief among these was that the supposed consumers had not committed to buying any power from this cable. In essence it would have to laid on spec which is unheard of for a project of that size.

A few other technical problems have been set out by Matthew Warren, a former chief executive of both the Australian Energy Council and  Clean Energy Council. The article in the Australian Financial Review (January 13) is behind a pay wall but here are a few excerpts.

Power is generated regionally, and over time these grids have sometimes built transmission to trade power over a few hundred kilometres to their neighbours. The world’s electricity networks are a spider’s web. Sun Cable proposed a long fire hose.

Clever? Innovative? No. Just expensive and risky. Sun Cable’s centrepiece was its great weakness: a massive 4200 kilometre-long undersea power cable running from Darwin to Singapore.

This is the electricity equivalent of proposing to build a 1000-storey building. Sun Cable would have been longer than a trans-Atlantic cable linking North America and Europe.

It would have been more than seven times longer than the longest submarine transmission line in the world, which currently links Norway and the Netherlands. A 767 kilometre Viking link between the UK and Denmark is currently under construction.

Based on Viking’s current cost estimates, Sun Cable’s submarine cable alone would have cost at least $15 billion, probably a lot more. These billions would have been added to the price changed for electricity sales, as well as the 12 per cent of electricity lost as heat along the way.

The submarine cable, even if laid correctly, was inherently risky engineering. It would rest on the ocean floor, with sections of it beneath kilometres of deep water and the relentless pressures this entails.

Faults in conventional submarine cables aren’t easy to fix. Repair involves pulling the cable out of the water and inspecting it, like fixing a bike puncture. The infamous 2015 fault in the 370 kilometre Basslink cable between Tasmania and Victoria (Two Australian states - Tasmania is a very large island just to the South) took six months to fix. Finding and repairing a fault in 4200 kilometres of cable could literally take years.

There was a lot more, but you get the idea.


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NIT: Fixing the longer length cable would not take years.  It would take roughly ~same amount of time the TAS-VIC cable did.  Finding the problem is not difficult.  They would know instantly.  Getting the equipment to the spot is what takes the time.  In fact, fixing said problem should be quicker if one PERMANENTLY had equipment waiting... increased maintenance expense of course which is probably the REAL reason the TAS-VIC line was out of commission for so long... they had no equipment on hand would be my bet and probably had to import it. 

This cable would never be viable without gigantic battery backup at Singapore/Malaysia end of things and said backup does not exist so...  After all one small hickup thousands of kilometers away or... a VOLCANO/Earthquake cutting off your supply of power is civilization destroying event..... not that there aren't thousands of volcanos and major earthquakes happening literally EVERY DAY between OZ-Singpore

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