5B “Maverick” automating the future of solar
Australian solar manufacturer 5B is set to scale up delivery of their innovative low cost solar product, the 5B Maverick, with the help of a $14 million grant from ARENA.
5B’s $33.4 million project will aim to automate the manufacturing and deployment of the prefabricated Maverick, reducing the cost of the solar technology and speeding up installation times.
With the support of ARENA, 5B will design and implement a high volume, scalable and predominantly automated manufacturing line at their headquarters in Mascot, New South Wales.
Government funding will also go towards the development of GPS Guided Deployment (GGD) field robotic systems to automate the deployment of solar PV cells, improving speed, safety and reliability.
Plug and play solar farms
Founded by Sydney-based solar Chris McGrath and Eden Tehan, 5B launched the Maverick in 2017. Since then, their Maverick solar arrays have been used in 52 projects with a total capacity of 32 MW across the globe.
Maverick is a prefabricated, modular, east-west solar array that is built and pre-wired in the factory to enable a rapid “plug & play” deployment on site.
The design of the Maverick array uses solar PV cells slightly tilted to the east and west, maximising ground cover and capturing more sunlight than traditional single axis tracking or fixed tilt solar PV.
5B hopes that the modular, prefabricated nature of Maverick will allow field robotic systems to deploy the technology on site, reducing the personnel required for installation to lower costs and minimise safety risks.
An Australian success story
ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the funding for 5B would help reduce the cost of solar.
“While solar PV and wind are recognised as the lowest cost form of generation in Australia today, further cost reductions are required to optimise Australia’s transition to renewable electricity and to enable emerging industries such as renewable hydrogen and low emissions metals.
“5B is an Australian success story at the forefront of solar innovation. Having started in 2013, they are now becoming leaders in locally manufactured ultra low cost solar products that could reshape our solar industry and achieve our important aim of 30 cents per installed watt at utility scale by 2030.”
5B Chief Operating Officer Nicole Kuepper-Russell said: “The world needs massive scale, ultra low cost solar power fast and this funding will accelerate the delivery of that. It gives us the opportunity to build Australia’s reputation as a clean energy superpower, exporting cutting edge clean technology to the world.”
Low cost solar on the horizon
5B’s efforts to reduce the capital costs of solar technology are strongly aligned with the Australian Government’s approach to achieving net zero emissions with the help of technological innovation.
Ultra Low Cost Solar was added as a priority technology in the Government’s Low Emissions Technology Statement in 2021, with a stretch goal of reducing the cost of large scale solar to $15 per megawatt hour.
ARENA has supported these efforts by developing its own ambitious target of “Solar 30 30 30” which strives for 30% PV cell efficiency and a cost of 30 cents per watt installed for solar farms by 2030.
Achieving this goal means improving solar cell efficiency to yield more power from each solar panel, but also innovating in manufacturing and installation to bring down the total cost of solar farm installation.
To support this goal, ARENA recently announced a $40 million funding program to support research and development of ultra low cost solar technology.
With Maverick’s module-agnostic design, further developments in module efficiency and cost could make the product even more appealing to developers as next generation PV cells can be easily incorporated into a Maverick array.
5B are currently undertaking a series B capital raise with a target to complete their automation program by late 2023.