Mike Cannon-Brookes looks to solar-powered steel

Atlassian founder Mike Cannon-Brookes has announced he will look into personally funding a future Australian steel manufacturing sector, driven by renewable hydrogen.

Outlining his investment in a $25 billion solar farm in northern Australia and a cable to connect the energy to Singapore, Cannon-Brookes highlighted that the energy produced by the solar panels could be used to drive electrolysers to produce hydrogen.

This hydrogen could be a replacement power source for steel plants currently using coal-fired power.

The overall project, led by the company SunCable, will involve 15,000 hectares of solar arrays, 3800 kilometres of HVDC cable and produce 3 gigawatts of energy, supplying a fifth of Singapore’s electricity supply.

The batteries which store the energy produced by the solar panels will need to survive temperature above 50 degrees, something that fellow tech entrepreneur Elon Musk has reportedly assured Cannon-Brookes will be possible.

Cannon-Brookes has advocated investing in renewable technology beyond 100 per cent targets, with 200 per cent being the preferred amount so that excess energy can be exported and produce revenue for Australia.

When demand for electricity exceeds supply, energy produced at the solar farm can be used to create hydrogen, either for export or to decarbonise local manufacturing.

The low cost of solar energy production in Australia, when compared to other, less sunny nations, could enable Australia to become a cost-competitive steel manufacturer, and reduce its reliance on the export of iron ore to be made into steel elsewhere, argued Cannon-Brookes.

Making these comments on the sidelines of the UN climate talks, Cannon-Brookes highlighted the value of projects such SunCable, which become “lighthouse projects” for further investment and innovation, similar to the Tesla battery installed in South Australia.