Top 3 Transcontinental Solar Energy Transmission Projects

Back in October 2018, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi first articulated the idea of One World One Sun One Grid (OWOSOG), perhaps even he wouldn’t have expected the progress the idea has made since. Besides being announced formally as an objective at the COP 26 meet recently, the idea of OWOSOG has made enough progress to help us identify three such projects that actually seek to do what the idea envisaged.

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The idea of transporting solar energy generated in one region to another region is ambitious not just because of the sheer scale at which it will need to work, but the many challenges, be it regulatory, technical, financial and even political that it would need to surmount. Considering all that, the three transcontinental solar projects listed below have all reached different stages of progress, with at least two going well beyond the idea stage already. So let’s look at these projects.

Suncable’s AAPL Link

Right at the top would have to be the project from SunCable Called the Australia-Asia Power Link (AAPowerLink), it plans to generate  and store solar energy from Northern Territory of Australia, for 24/7 transmission to Darwin and Singapore via a high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission system. The promoters claim that the AAPowerLink transcontinental link will be capable of supplying up to 15% of Singapore’s total electricity needs, with supply commencing in 2027. The project includes a huge 17-20 GW of solar generation plants that will despatch 3.2 GW of energy, and 36-40 GW of battery storage. The 5000 Km (4200 Km sub sea) long transmission line is one of the biggest challenges of course.

Xlinks Morocco-UK Link

Next up is a project from British firm Xlinks to develop a 10.5 GW solar-plus-wind project, combined with a battery storage facility, in Morocco, which will supply 3.6 GW renewable energy to the UK, via a transcontinental solar subsea 3800 km long HVDC cables. This one is targeted for completion by 2030, and output of 3.6 GW of reliable energy for an average of 20+ hours a day. The installation is being linked to a 5 GW/20 GWh storage system. One of the largest electricity storage system to be installed on the African continent, Xlinks Morocco-UK Power Project will be a new electricity generation facility entirely powered by solar and wind energy combined with a battery storage facility.

Located in Morocco’s renewable energy rich region of Guelmim Oued Noun, it will cover an approximate area of 1,500km and once complete, the project will be capable of supplying 8 percent of Great Britain’s electricity needs.

Chile’s Antipodas Project

Third, and the newest project that looks like a serious plan is Chile’s hopes to transform its arid Atacama desert into a source of exportable renewable energy. Not only is the Atacama one of the world’s highest irradiance zones, but building a massive solar array there for energy exports will be an unexpected benefit for a region that is inhospitable to any other activity.

At a presentation at Enade, an important business event organised the Chilean Institute of Rational Business Administration (iCare), President Sebastian Piñera disclosed that the country is looking at the huge solar Antípodas project to generate power in the Atacama, and via a transcontinental cable, deliver it to Asian countries, possibly China.

The electricity produced could be between 200 and 600 GW of photovoltaic generation capacity that can transmit power to Asian countries when it is daytime in Chile and nighttime across the Pacific, or when it is winter in Asia and summer in the southern hemisphere. With China as the likely buyer, the Chilean government is hoping for a strong interest, and financial participation from the Chinese to make the project a reality.

While the Chilean plan is by far the most ambitious, it is also the newest one, and hence, yet to be truly considered a certainty. The AAPL link on the other hand, and to an extent, the Morocco-UK link, are projects that have made broad progress, and AAPL in particular seems to have a high chance of starting up. With demand for solar likely to ramp up higher than ever with progress on green hydrogen manufacturing, it will be no surprise if these, and more such projects come up in arid regions, linked to massive green hydrogen manufacturing.

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