Prefabricated solar tech firm 5B secures ARENA grant, launches AU$33m innovation programme


5B describes its Maverick solution as a “plug and play solar farm in a box”. Image: 5B.

Prefabricated solar solutions manufacturer 5B is looking to improve the scalability and cost of its technology through an AU$33.4 million (US$24 million) innovation programme and support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

Australia-based 5B describes its Maverick ground-mount solution as a “plug and play solar farm in a box” that features up to 90 modules and can be deployed “up to ten times faster” than a conventional solar installation.

The innovation programme will see the company leverage advanced automation to scale Maverick as it looks to enable a 70% reduction in the capital cost of a solar farm featuring the technology to AU$0.30/W (US$0.22/W) by 2030.

Roughly two-thirds of the investment will be directed towards designing a scalable and predominantly automated manufacturing line at 5B’s headquarters in Sydney, while the remainder will be used to develop a robotic system that uses GPS-guided deployment technology to install arrays. ARENA will support the company with an AU$14 million grant.

“This programme will drive a step change in our automation capability and enable local manufacturing in Australia,” said 5B chief operating officer Nicole Kuepper-Russell.

Launched in 2017, Maverick can be built and pre-wired in a factory, ready for deployment in the field. 5B has to date completed 52 projects with a combined capacity of more than 32MW featuring the technology across Australia, the US, Latin America and India.

The company last year launched a higher capacity 50kWdc Maverick that is optimised for the 540-550W module class.

Having secured the backing of energy tech company AES as part of an AU$12 million Series A funding round in 2020, 5B last year raised the same amount in a pre-Series B round to support its expansion in markets such as the US, Chile and India.

AES has itself launched a solar installation robot that will carry out tasks such as heavy lifting and attaching solar modules. The company said the technology will make it more efficient and safer to construct solar projects.

ARENA’s backing of 5B comes one week after the agency announced up to AU$40 million in funding to support research and development that can help Australia in its efforts to lower the cost of solar.

“5B is an Australian success story at the forefront of solar innovation,” said ARENA CEO Darren Miller. “Having started in 2013, they are now becoming leaders in locally manufactured ultra-low-cost solar products that could reshape our solar industry.”

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