David Bidstrup guest post. Singapore sting.

A few days ago Rafe posted about the proposed solar farm “near Tennant Creek” that will send electricity to Singapore via a “Bass link” on steroids. The numbers are impressive. The solar array will be rated at 10GW, which is 10,000 Megawatts or around one third of the average Australian peak load. Because it is a solar installation and produces nothing for half the year there will be storage and this will also be on steroids, 22GWh or 22,000MWh. By comparison, SA’s “Big Battery” is rated at 100MWh so the one proposed 220 times larger.

One of the proponents makes the masterful understatement that:  “It’s a huge project on a world scale, right? This is not big just on Australian scale. This is big on a world scale…The reason that we are all involved is to serve as a lighthouse project to Australia, to the world. It is a world scale engineering project.”

He goes on to say “10 gigawatts of solar, which should be the largest, if not at the time it is built, definitely the largest solar farm that exists today, connected to 22 gigawatt-hours of storage.”

As they say, “you can say that again Cecil”.

When talking about batteries he says: It is 150 times bigger than the world’s biggest battery, the Tesla facility at Hornsdale…. I’ve got friends that know about storage,” he said. “You ring them and ask them for 100 megawatt-hours, it’s totally different. You ring them and ask for 22 gigawatt-hours. They’re like, ‘wait you mean 150 times bigger than South Australia?’ I’m like yeah”. 

 I’m like impressed yeah. He needs to get the calculator out; like it’s actually 220 times bigger like, (sorry, I’m just trying to get into the youth vibe).

I have looked at a few proposals for 100MWh batteries in SA and the going rate is around $100 million each, so one million per MWh or one billion per GWh. So the 22GWh battery is likely to cost $22 Billion alone. It will probably last 8 to 10 years before needing replacement.

The number of solar panels is equally impressive. The biggest I can find are rated at 500 watts so you need 2 per kilowatt, 2,000 per Megawatt and 2,000,000 per Gigawatt, giving the number of panels needed for 10GW as 20 million. These might last 15 years or perhaps a tad longer but their efficiency will degrade over time.

Apart from the vast area needed to house these and the infrastructure to support them there will also be the need for power inverters to convert from 12DC to AC so the voltage can be raised before converting again to HVDC for transmission. The terminal end of the cable also needs inverters and transformers to get the juice back to useable voltages AC.

I read somewhere that the “export” would be 3GW and I presume that the Singaporeans want it to be constant. With all solar installations the trick is to balance the load, generation and deficits over the day so there can be a constant output. This is usually where reality collides with dreams. I tried to pick a “typical day” and the chart below is for 21 December. It should be a good one because it is the summer solstice where there is a maximum sun angle. Unfortunately things like clouds get in the way and theory departs from practice.

For this day total generation is 34.3 GWh, total consumption is 72 GWh and the deficit is 37.7 GWh which is presumably made up by taking from the 22 GWh battery but there is not enough juice in the box. Also, once you take from the battery you have to re-charge it and the question is from where? Just by way of explanation for those who wonder, the GWh is taken directly from the Generation in GW multiplied by the time interval which equals one hour.

The only way to balance it is to reduce the load which means that the 3 GW will be reduced. Perhaps I am missing something or perhaps they are. I recognise that I am an old bloke and therefore suspect, but always willing to learn, yeah.

The cable might also be an issue. Currently the longest power cable is the NorNed that connects The Netherlands with Norway and it is 580 kms long. The connection to Singapore is around 3,800 kms. The deepest power cable is the SAPEI that connects Sardinia to mainland Italy and it gets to depths of 1,500 metres. The sea floor between Australia and Indonesia/Singapore extends over the junction of 3 tectonic plates and contains one area known as the Weber Deep that gets to 7.2 kms depth. Basslink cost around $900 million for a capacity of 500 MW and a length of 370 Kms. This project needs a capacity of 3,000 MW and a length of 3,800 kms – guessing $9 to $10 billion or more.

Perhaps they could name it the “Darryl Kerrigan Project”.

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50 Responses to David Bidstrup guest post. Singapore sting.

  1. Rob says:

    It’s not as though the proponents would ever be embarrassed by the underlying realities of their charade, there will be too many outright idiots rushing in to support it. The trick is to get the money flowing well before a feasibility study demolishes the idea.

  2. RobK says:

    I think you have that pretty right DB. The strings of standard panels can runout to 1000Vdc(minor point). The total boondoggle will of course include windpower and H2 storage before it’s finished, so as to be all-inclusive; something for everyone.
    The problem is Singapore will be mindful of energy security and a long cord is not conducive to that.

  3. TBH says:

    The engineering doesn’t stack up to my mind. There are too many limitations in the technology and too many practical realities that make this very unlikely, especially at that kind of scale. It will also be monumentally expensive.

  4. Bushkid says:

    The further I read, the more I laughed.

    Then I just shook my head in utter despair.

    I may be an old chook, and I may not be an electrical engineer, but on the face of it that just does not stack up.

  5. NoFixedAddress says:

    David, David, David.
    Tsk, Tsk, Tsk.

    Don’t you know that he’s an “Expert”, from the order of “homos compos maniacus sapiens”, and has a “computer model” that ‘trumps’ reality every time.

    And just to translate some of the ‘modern’ terms used in the previous sentence for some of you old fogies reading this, instead of having ‘Siri’ read it to you, the following old English translations are used,

    “Expert” – a dumb bastard;
    “computer model” – wishful thinking
    “homos compos maniacus sapiens” – a fuckin idiot not worth feeding.

  6. Terence Barr says:

    Yeah. Tell him he’s dreaming mate.

  7. Herodotus says:

    Another big lie that gets repeated often and believed by many. “Coal is finished. Wind and solar can handle the mission”.

  8. bemused says:

    How long does it take to recharge the battery once discharged? Even with fast charging (if possible and which is detrimental to battery life) it would take many hours if not days.

    What’s the life of the undersea cable? Noting that Bass Link has failed a couple of times and that’s just a minor distance.

    What happens if some nearby country decides to compete with more reliable and cheaper electricity?

    What if Singapore decides to become energy self-sufficient?

    And all the unknown, unknowns. At least it’s someone else’s money.

  9. Mark M says:

    And here I was preparing for perfect weather …

    Asia’s pandemic stimulus may slow the demise of coal

    Coal power plant construction will push ahead in Asia despite falling electricity demand and environmental concerns as policymakers prioritise boosting economies crippled by the coronavirus pandemic, analysts say


    The global decline in coal-fired power this year was unlikely to be repeated in the next five years because of demand for cheap energy in Asia, the International Energy Agency said.


  10. Mark M says:

    Wait. What? Why?

    Why would you bother building the white elephant?

    “We know the climate changes as greenhouse gas concentrations rise, but the exact amount of expected warming remains uncertain.”

    The climate won’t warm as much as we feared – but it will warm more than we hoped

    Surely the biggest virtue signal. Ever.

  11. Tony Tea says:

    The proponents of these schemes live by Dirksen’s maxim (paraphrased): “A billion here, a billion there, mostly you’re talking about other people’s money.”

    Incidentally, Dirksen was called the Wizard of Ooze, which could well apply to the oily rent-seekers who keep touting these Rudd-like sky-pies.

  12. Terry says:

    Which facet of this fantastically stupid proposed boondoggle competes favourably with Nuclear or Coal?
    Price? Nope
    Efficiency? Nope
    Reliability? Nope
    Stability? Nope
    Density? Nope
    Longevity? Nope
    Environmental Impact? Nope
    Even CO2 emissions? Nope

    …only one…subsidy farming (aka state-sanctioned theft from joe-public)

    Any taxpayer monies “invested” in this scam should be recovered on a pro-rata basis (as an extra tax) on any politician receiving a fully-indexed pension.

    The consequences must feedback directly to the hip-pocket nerve of those who insist on making really bad decisions with other peoples’ money.

    Don’t worry. I am sure the euphoria of the virtue-signaling high will mask the pain, for a while.

  13. John Dee says:

    This is not bigly stupid on Australian scale. This is bigly stupid on a world scale

  14. Roberto says:

    What is in it for them? I can’t see it stacking up in the way of engineering, economics or reliability for supply to Singapore. The only explanation would be government money (our money) until it falls over. Polititions would be silly enough. We have so many examples. Perhaps we may be saved that given the constraints placed by expenditure with Covid.

  15. Snoopy says:

    Spivs gotta spiv.

  16. Yarpos says:

    Its funny how when trying to push bandwagons they say ” industry needs certainty” then they come out with rolled gold BS like this. Two groups will profit, the consultants doing the feasibility (which they will drag out as long as possible) and the financiers will gain a marketing list of wealthy but stupid people they can market the next scheme to when this folds. I guess there may be real estate games in the NT als if the Chinese are willing to sell.

  17. duncanm says:

    Why on earth would
    a) we not sell this power locally?
    b) Singapore buy it from us ?


    Commercial prices:
    * Singapore – 0.14 c/kWh
    * Australia – 0.19c/kWh

    its 30% more expensive here.

  18. John Dee says:

    The problem is Singapore will be mindful of energy security and a long cord is not conducive to that.Rob K
    Good point.
    Try to imagine the logistics involved in the fall of Singapore during World War 2 – time, expense, men, equipment, lives lost.
    In the next conflict a submarine or new technology drone merely takes out a bread slice of a 3800 km cable and it is all over?
    Seems like some “experts” forgot their medication.
    Used to be a lot of smart people in Singapore – hope they are still there.
    But then the stupidity of wind power blighting the countryside worldwide is a multi trillion dollar industry.

  19. TonyfromOz says:

    Umm, you either transmit the power as it is being generated ….. OR ….. charge the batteries.
    You cannot do both.

  20. duncanm says:

    .. as for batteries, you wouldn’t be using LiIon (like SA).. you’d need to be using large-scale tech like liquid flow batteries.

    10GW solar array – FMD.

    Let’s look at the largest plants in the world. Bhadla Solar Park in India. 2.245GW, 40km^2.

    So 10GW scales to about 180km^2, or 13 x 13 km

    For real output numbers, an example is the Topaz Solar Farm in the US. Nameplate capacity of 550MW provides worst case (mid winter) 100MW average over a day. ie: 18% load factor

    So a similar 22GW plant will provide a 4GW average in winter.

  21. Bruce says:

    I suspect this “proponent” of electricity export is not entirely geographically literate.

    This proposed cable would have to be a whole different beastie compared to the undersea telegraph / telephone lines littering the ocean floors.At least it would be “water-cooled”.

    The ENTIRE region of sea floor over which it would travel is VERY geologically active. The entire Indonesian archipelago is constantly on the move, courtesy of the Australasian plate moving north-west and shoving it out of the way. The sea floor is not a flat bed of soft sand, but riven with very deep trenches As a few people noticed a few years back, this “loaded” sea floor gets frisky at times; undersea quakes, enormous “landslides” See also: Krakatau, et al.

    If the proposed “generating” plant is supposed to be such an electric bonanza, why export the stuff?

    The eco-nazis should be overjoyed at the prospect of running all of Australia from vast swathes of Chinese panels and bird-mashers. They and their street-warriors are often heard to be chanting about “Power to the people”, but this rhetoric seems to carefully avoid defining exactly WHICH people.

    Also seems to be not a lot of awareness about the differences between AC and DC, voltage and current, etc.; probably minor quibbles to your basic eco-loon.

  22. Colin Suttie says:

    The money would be better spent on a monorail.

  23. Russell says:

    Surely it would be closer and cheaper for Singapore to build a floating solar array in the South China Sea. And the civil/mech engineering challenges would be a doddle compared to a set of cables straddling the Weber Deep? It’s not like the SCS is disputed waters.

  24. Arnost says:

    Lets hypothetically assume that nuke/coal/gas is off the table and only alternatives are sun and birdchoppers. And therefore – as above we need a budget of $XBio for the infrastructure. I ask: Why not be smarter about the battery bit?

    I would love to see a comparative business case based on using the sun/wind/RE energy to generate chemical power, [like h2 – or such (Bruce?)]. Something that can, on an industrial scale, be: transported, stored and used safely to generate baseload electricity. [i.e. Burn the h2 to drive steam turbines as needed] Even if the infrastructure is equivalent cost then the simple facts that: the RE can be dispersed geographically & politically; there is no undersea cabling over highly tectonically active areas; and there is no power loss as a consequence of the long distance transmission gives massive advantage in its own right.

  25. bronson says:

    I hear that the price of tulip bulbs is going up again.

  26. Roger W says:

    Interesting how many commentators
    a) take the proposal at all seriously
    b) try to use logical and rational arguments to prove it isn’t feasible or economic.

    The trick is to see where there might be a profit/benefit. Given the crazy policies of the Greens and Labor in particular, but also given the the Coalition still has us in the Paris Agreement and is still subsidizing renewables, how might the proponents make a lot of money without ever having to put any of this into practice? There are a number of examples in the USA during the Obama years where schemes received billions in subsidies but no longer exist (think Solyndra, for example). Think being able to resell the Sydney Harbour Bridge multiple times, legally, and you might start to get the picture.
    It’s all OK, though, because it is all taxpayer money and we all know that that comes from the Magic Pudding and the Money Tree.

  27. Stanley says:

    What happens to the undersea cable when an earthquake occurs? I hope the cable is elastic since the 2004 earthquake rupture’s movement was 10 m laterally and 4-5 m vertical.

  28. Stanley says:

    I hear that the price of tulip bulbs is going up again.

    What? The incandescent, fluorescent or LED variety?

  29. David Bidstrup says:

    I used pvwatts to do the analysis for output. There are others but it gives a reasonable result. The analysis does not consider losses from charge/re-charge cycles, conversion from DC to AC and transmission losses which would be substantial. I know HVDC has less losses but not zero. Guess overall that 25% of power generated would go in losses but it is a guess only. Its a pity that those whom fate has kissed on the knob seem to think it gives them some license to tell us how to live and to propose outlandish ideas that are lapped up by the green dickheads.

  30. David Bidstrup says:

    Also did not mention that the CF given by the pvwatts analysis is 29%. This is on the high side but Tennant Creek is 20 degrees South latitude so gets higher sun angles for longer in the year.

  31. old bloke says:

    Singapore presently generates the majority of its electricity by gas turbines, the gas is supplied from Indonesia and Malaysia by pipelines. They keep three years supply of gas on hand in storage tanks to buffer against price fluctuations and potential political problems which might disrupt supply.

    Why would Singapore want to purchase electricity from Australia when they generate their own? If they needed additional electricity it would be cheaper for them to purchase from Indonesia and Malaysia, both of whom use coal and gas generation.

    Electricity in Singapore is cheaper than in Australia*, why would anyone generate it here for export?

    * afterthought – electricity is cheaper everywhere than Australia, except for Denmark and Germany.

  32. Mater says:

    Also did not mention that the CF given by the pvwatts analysis is 29%. This is on the high side but Tennant Creek is 20 degrees South latitude so gets higher sun angles for longer in the year.

    Was the general higher ambient temperature of Tennent Creek taken into account?
    Efficiency drops with increased temperature.


  33. Faye says:

    What about when it fails, who cleans up the giant eyesore rotting on once productive land? The high flyers won’t. Governments/Councils are pushing another UN directive, Zero Waste Policy, ie waste to landfill as a last resort.

    The problem for governments is they encourage/subsidize dud renewables which fail, only to be stuck with the cleaning up of these monstrosities which becomes another huge expense because of their zero waste policies. It would be poetic justice except that we pay.

  34. David Bidstrup says:

    pvwatts supposedly takes all factors into account. It uses what are called Typical Meteorological Year data that is collected over time and includes cloud cover, rain, wind speed and temperature among others.

  35. Genghis says:

    Great article but you forgot the charging and decharging from current batteries. That is it takes 110% of voltage to fully charge current batteries and the batteries only provide 90% of the available voltage. To take AC to DC also is a 10% power loss the same to convert back and although CD is better to take electricity long distances there is still power loss.
    It is all total BS.

  36. Forester says:

    It’s really a cover story for the extension cord for the new subs.

  37. Anonandon says:

    Too many people pissing is this guy’s pocket. He needs to go back to the place he grew up and learn some lessons from some real people so he doesn’t forget where he came from. Probably make a good movie with MCB played by Shia La Boeuf and maybe he’ll fall in love with the girl he fancied at school (played by Rebel Wilson – yikes). That film has got as much chance as getting made as his solar farm does. Anyway, I digress.

  38. Kneel says:

    At this scale Li-Ion makes no sense.

    Carbon batteries are:
    * better energy density
    * lighter weight
    * don’t require “rare”/toxic metals

    Just paper, activated carbon, salt water and aluminium foil. Even better, use graphene.
    I’ve seen the test results from this sort of cell used in CR31 style batteries – better than Li-Ion by far in electrical terms (3-5 times the storage in the same volume) and massively better in environmental damage making the freaking things. OK, the test device used a different electrolyte (magnesium disulphide? – plenty of that around, used in non-rechargable zinc/carbon batteries, so very cheap), but otherwise identical. Not sure about lifetime, but likely not really an issue given the price difference cradle-to-grave (non-toxic, mainly organic internals means no manufacturing/recycling headaches).

  39. ChaD says:

    A totally impractical proposal..technically and financially.
    But..no one is going to invest billions in a unproven battery technology..including Flow cells.
    The only cells proven on a large scale are lithium, and even those would be impractical simply due to volume availability.
    If you read the full proposal you will find that it includes power for a hydrogen production facility as well as other local industry and power demand for the north of the country.
    Also this is a project that has been bumped around for several years, initially a 7 GW, then 9 GW, and the latest is actually 15 GW……..all of them just financial “fishing” exercises .!

  40. Cynic of Ayr says:

    People, it’s not about supplying power to Singapore.
    It’s about starting a company, issuing a prospectus that no one can understand, and get the investor’s money in.
    Then, the CEO is on a couple of million a year, and the “experts” to design the thing are up for a few million more.
    Then, the project is “planned” for years, investigations into supply and build. Years!
    In all the time, the CEO collects his couple of million.
    Then, a few panels are put up for the investors to take a look at. Then, the money runs out.
    The CEO, (who has collected probably 10 or 20 million in wages by this time) and the “experts” all wilt away, and start another company to do something similar.
    The ACCC is called in. Gotta do something!
    Oops! The CEO is the son, son-in-law, brother, sister, uncle or aunt of some prominent member of the business community, or politician.
    Not to worry, the ACCC says, we’ll get him anyway. Where’s he live? Where? Where the hell is Bottanaland? We ain’t got no treaty with that mob.
    Annnndddd, in a couple of years, when the stink has blown away, the CEO and the experts return, and all is well.
    Proof? A couple of wave power machines rusting away in the surf, and a couple of sea water to fresh water elephants might be a clue.
    Christopher Skase come to mind? Admittedly, Chris was a bit early to get in on the renewables racket, but if he was in business today, he wouldn’t be friggin’ around with a bit of dirt at Port Douglas!

  41. John A says:

    Forester #3523268, posted on July 24, 2020, at 11:33 am

    It’s really a cover story for the extension cord for the new subs.

    You nearly cost me a new keyboard with that one! Fortunately, I had just finished my coffee. 🙂

  42. herodotus says:

    Good work on this and your previous post David.

  43. W Hogg says:

    Here I was thinking the Very Foolish Train when built (not if) will be the greatest destruction of wealth in our history. This will be slightly cheaper, but produce absolutely nothing of any value to 99.999% of citizens.

  44. Scott Osmond says:

    Synic has hit the nail on the head. It’s not serious just another scam in a long stream of them. Geodynamics did the hype, got investors, got KRudd to give them government grants, did some work, didn’t deliver, changed it’s name and started in on wind and solar. Rinse and repeat. I can’t help but wonder how much those running the re scams make but once they fail it’s the taxpayer who has to clean up the rusting monuments to stupidity and greed.

  45. Mike Ryan says:

    There is also the power losses over 3,800 Km’s.

  46. Mike Ryan says:

    Transmission losses over 3,800 Km. Correction.

  47. Squirrel says:

    It’s mad, of course – which is why we’ll be hearing a lot more about it from the ABC, and it’s bound to be talked up by one or more twits in the federal Opposition (they’ll see it as a great example of the Green New Deal that they’re just dying to talk about).

    The smartest thing we could do is develop recycling industries for dead solar panels, batteries and wind turbines (and keep selling uranium…..)

  48. Ubique says:

    It’s the vibe of the thing.

  49. Bruce says:

    Roger W raises a very important point.

    It’s not the technical buffoonery that really matters.

    With all those taxpayer dollars sloshing around, the BIGGEST figures will be the “interesting fees” and the inescapable “spillage”

    As ALWAYS: “Follow the money”.

    After all, it was stolen from you in the first place.

  50. hzhousewife says:

    Mr Cannon-Brooks is welcome to spend all his own money on this particular toy.

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