5B plans solar “speed record” for 10GW plant in north Australia

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5B plans to deploy “big field” Maverick models and set solar installation “speed record” for proposed 10GW mega-project in Northern Territory

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Plans to build the world’s largest solar and storage project in the Australia desert, and use it to help power Singapore, have taken a new and exciting step forward, with “plug and play” solar start-up 5B tapped to provide the massive project’s PV component.

Sydney-based 5B said on Thursday that it had been selected by Sun Cable as the preferred technology partner for its ground-breaking Australia-Singapore Power Link project – a $20 billion, 10GW solar farm and a 20-30GW hour storage facility near Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory of Australia.

As we have reported, the ASPL aims to supply renewable electricity to both Darwin and Singapore – the latter via a 3,750km undersea cable – a plan first outlined by Beyond Zero Emissions, and which quickly attracted the attention of investment heavyweights including Mike Cannon-Brookes’ Grok Ventures.

See The 10GW solar vision that could turn Northern Territory into economic powerhouse  and listen to our Energy Insiders Podcast with BZE’s Eytan Lenko.

Last month, the plans took a significant step forward after winning Major Project Status from the Northern Territory government.

NT chief minister Michael Gunner said at the time that his government would begin negotiations on a Project Development Agreement with developer Sun Cable, to kickstart the proposed 10GW solar farm and 20-30GWh storage facility near Tennant Creek.

According to this week’s news, the first block of 5B’s Maverick technology was also deployed in July, to commence detailed onsite monitoring of the solar and meteorological conditions at the Sun Cable site – marking another significant step forward for the project.

5B, which first unveiled its “game-changing” Maverick solar technology in July of 2017, had initially envisaged targeting Australia’s booming commercial market, including remote and off-grid industrial applications.

But the young company says the pre-fabricated, modular plug-and-play design of its solar technology – that enables deployment much faster and cheaper than traditional solar installations – is ideal for grid-scale projects like the ASPL, too.

For this particular project, 5B will use a special variant of its Maverick solution, called the Big Field Maverick, or BFM.

The company says it expects the BFM technology, specifically targeted at megawatt- and gigawatt-scale projects, to set a new solar farm delivery “land-speed record” of more than 15MW per day, or 1MW per person per week.

“The Sun Cable project exemplifies the possibilities unlocked with our Maverick technology,” said 5B CEO Chris McGrath on Thursday.

“We developed the Maverick solution precisely to allow solar deployment that is simpler, faster and smarter and by doing so, opening new opportunities for solar.

“Our solution streamlines engineering, procurement and construction and transfers cost, time and risk from the construction site to our factory – so in a controlled environment where high productivity and quality can be achieved – key for a project of this scale and in such a remote location as the Australian Outback,” he said.

“The fact that our Maverick solution is now driving a cost of solar energy so competitive that Australia can export that energy from the Outback to Singapore, is tremendously exciting and marks a significant tipping point for the energy market.”

Sun Cable CEO, David Griffin, said 5B’s rapidly deployed Maverick solution appealed as the “simplest and lowest risk” way to roll out a project of this scale and location – in the remote Australian Outback.

For 5B and McGrath, the company’s focus on the challenge of getting solar modules from their point of manufacture, into the field and delivering energy in the fastest, lowest cost way possible, looks to be paying off.

“5B, along with other pioneers in the industry, see this as driving a paradigm shift away from single axis tracking, which is enjoying its renaissance in current market conditions, towards low cost, energy dense east-west solutions, such as Maverick,” he said.

“Our Maverick solution also takes this a critical step further – providing the platform through its centralised pre-fabrication and on-site rapid deployment approach, for end to end streamlining of the supply chain for delivery of solar farms – as opposed to current slow and laborious ‘stick built’ or in situ construction practices.

“Deploying massive MW scale projects at ground-breaking speed and cost has always been the ultimate objective for our Maverick solution, making it ideally suited to the Sun Cable project.”

According to Sun Cable’s Griffin, the project is scheduled to start producing power from late 2027, despite the “extensive” construction related logistical challenges.

The Maverick blocks for the project will reportedly be fed to the site from Darwin in the north and Adelaide in the south by the Darwin-Adelaide railway line, requiring a more than kilometre long train every few days and in the order of the equivalent of 40,000 shipping containers.

At the peak of delivery, they will be being deployed at a rate of more than 100 BFMs, or 15MW, per day.

The project is also expected to create between 1,000 and 2,000 jobs in total, with around half of these associated with the PV farm delivery.

5B is collaborating on the industrialisation and scaling of its Maverick solution with IXL Solar, a division of the IXL Group, which has recently diversified from auto-industry focused manufacturing to renewables, including the manufacture of a range of solar mounting technologies.

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