AGL Energy’s recent executive shake-up has delivered a win for Sydney-based solar start-up, 5B, with Simeon Baker-Finch moving on from the gen-tailer’s Future Business team to become chief technology officer at the Malcolm Turnbull-backed PV innovator.
5B, whose rapidly deployable Maverick solar solution is tapped to supply the world’s biggest solar farm in the Northern Territory, said on Monday that it had appointed Baker-Finch to lead ongoing solar innovation and development of its broader technology suite.
Before his time as head of technology and commercial strategy at AGL’s Future Business, Baker-Finch built up an impressive solar pedigree, including stints at Hanwha Solar’s America Advanced Research and Development Laboratory in California, PV Lighthouse, the Australia National University, and First Solar.
“Simeon will oversee all aspects of 5B technology, from inception of our next technology stack through to industrialisation and automation of our existing Maverick solution,” said 5B co-founder and chief executive officer Chris McGrath.
“Simeon is an outstanding addition to the team, and has unique depth, breadth and foresight in our space – from the micro details of solar cell technology through to the future of the energy market and impacts of a high renewables grid.”
Baker-Finch comes to 5B at an important time, when the company’s revolutionary Maverick solution – designed to be deployed three times faster than conventional PV arrays and deliver twice the output from the same geographic footprint – is attracting massive orders and impressive investors.
In 2019, when the company had barely deployed 10MW of its modular solar technology, it was selected as the preferred technology partner the 10GW Sun Cable solar farm planned for construction near Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory of Australia.
As part of this deal, Sun Cable recently submitted plans for a manufacturing facility that would pilot a semi-automated production line, rolling out 5B’s Maverick solar systems.
On the investment front, a 2020 $US8.6 million fund-raising round was led by US energy giant AES, which has a market worth $US60 billion and more than 35GW of generation capacity, as well as a partnership with energy storage giant Fluence.
And this year, an over-subscribed pre-series B funding round attracted new investors the likes of former PM Malcolm Turnbull and leading energy analyst Simon Holmes à Court, while existing investors – including AES – came back for more.
“One of the biggest advantages 5B has is our speed of innovation,” said Baker-Finch in a statement on Monday. “I’m excited to be building on our awesome value proposition.
“Our solution is safer and cheaper. But more importantly, our ecosystem of partners is expanding and our technology is constantly evolving, driving down cost and driving out risk, resulting in an unbeatable proposition for the end customer.”
5B said last month it was gearing up for a Series B fund-raising round where it would seek between $30 million and $50 million to further accelerate its technology development roadmap and boost international growth.
All told, the company says the past financial year saw orders for its Maverick solution grow 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 50 to more than 150 staff.
5B’s previous CTO, Dr Rhett Evans, who had filled the role for the past 18 months, takes up a new role at the company as Head of Performance & Reliability, to focus on optimising the performance and reliability of the Maverick solutions through its creation and operating lifecycle.
As RenewEconomy reported in its regular Grid Connections column, Baker-Finch leaves AGL Energy amid a major executive shake-up at the company ahead of its demerger, including the departure of the head of Future Business and technology, John Chambers, the head of corporate affairs Liz McNamara and head of strategy and corporate development Joao Segorbe.