The prefabricated “plug-and-play” solar PV technology tapped for use in the world’s largest solar and battery project has had an upgrade that promises to deliver one-third more power, as well as more flexibility and even faster deployment.
New South Wales based innovator 5B opened orders for a new generation of its Maverick solar solution on Thursday, offering a higher capacity 48-50kWDC array and wiring designed for faster, easier and safer on-site deployment.
The upgrades come as the Malcolm Turnbull-backed 5B attracts an ever broader range of customers and jobs, peaking at the 20GW Australia-Asia PowerLink project being developed by Sun Cable in the Northern Territory.
5B was first named as the preferred technology partner for that project in August of 2019, when Sun Cable proposed installing 10GW of solar and a 20-30GW hour storage facility near Tennant Creek. The solar component has since doubled in size, to 20GW, alongside an expanded 36-42GWh of battery storage.
And with construction of the massive Sun Cable project now slated to start in 2023, 5B no doubt understands that speed of deployment, efficiency of power conversion and optimised costs are at a highe premium than ever.
“We …need to be radically increasing the scale of the projects we’re building,” said 5B CEO and co-founder Chris McGrath on Thursday, speaking at the Smart Energy Council’s Global Race to Net Zero Summit.
“[5B has] taken the conventional approach to solar and moved all the time costs and risks from the site into the factory, to really allow us to bring the benefit of factory-based production efficiencies to the solar industry,” McGrath said.
“We believe that we’re currently probably the fastest solar technology in the world, pending a Guinness World Record validation of that.”
The company said the latest iteration of its Australian-designed prefabricated, ground-mount, self-ballasted array, dubbed 5B Maverick, had been optimised for the 540-550W module class – “the workhorse of the utility-scale solar industry.”
“[With] 90 modules compatible with all Silicon Module Super League and Tier 1 module suppliers, the new 5B Maverick can deliver up to 30 per cent more power than the previous generation, making it the most capable 5B Maverick ever,” a statement said.
The upgraded design also included more features that were prefabricated and factory assembled, 5B said, allowing for further reduced installation time and significantly improved safety in deployment, as well as a reduction in “soft costs” like engineering and labour.
Offering “200kW in a box,” the new 5B Maverick arrays have be “size and weight optimised” to come in at under 6000kg, with four arrays able to be fit “compactly” into a standard 40’ High-Cube shipping container.
The 5B Maverick also uses an enhanced steel-concrete composite in its 10-beam array, coupled with a “ground-hugging aerodynamic” that is said to signficantly boost its resilience in high wind environments.
With minimal ground penetration, the 5B Maverick is suited to sites with 48 m/s wind speed. It can be deployed on sites with wind speeds as high as 75 m/s with minor upgrades to configuration.
“The powerful new 5B Maverick is a testimony to 5B’s passion and commitment to continuous innovation, and determination to lead from the front in the global gigawatt solar revolution,” 5B chief technology officer, Simeon Baker-Finch said on Thursday.
“Our research and development team is laser-focused on product improvements to our 5B Maverick solution. We will continue to drive performance up and cost and complexity down.”
In August, 5B flagged plans for a new fundraising round seeking between $30 million and $50 million, to further accelerate its technology development roadmap and boost international growth.
This would include building out 5B’s ecosystem supply chain and deployment partners, beefing up its advanced manufacturing and automation capabilities, and training partners on how to use its product, the company said at the time.
The fund-raising round follows a financial year when 5B’s order is believed to have grown by more than 500%, year-on-year, from a base of 50-plus customers across five countries, while also raising $A25 million and expanding from 30 to more than 130 staff.
The company’s recent ‘pre-series B’ capital raise notched up $12 million from both existing investors, including Artesian Venture Capital, and new investors, including Turnbull, leading energy analyst Simon Holmes à Court and Beyond Zero Emissions chair Eytan Lenko.
5B undertook its first international project in partnership with AES Panamá, which installed 2MW of solar panels in just 10 working days. In Australia, 5B supplied last year supplied solar modules to SA Water’s 12MW Happy Valley Reservoir project, reaching a peak deployment rate of 3MW per week.