Modular solar startup secures backing of bp ventures


From pv magazine Australia

Australian modular solar array manufacturer 5B has announced the successful completion of a $37.4 million Series B funding round that will drive the development of the company’s prefabricated and rapidly deployable Maverick solar systems.

The funding round attracted the support of the venture arm of global oil and gas giant bp and was co-led by existing investors AES Corp. and Sydney-headquartered investment management firm Artesian Venture Capital.

Sydney-based 5B said the capital raise will support the development of its redeployable, modular, prefabricated Maverick solar system, a PV array in which modules come preassembled onto concrete blocks that replace conventional mounting structures.

Chris McGrath, the co-founder and CEO of 5B, said the backing from bp is “a powerful validation” of the company’s technology and would allow it to fast track its international expansion strategy, which includes plans to establish a manufacturing and assembly hub in North America.

“Collaborating with bp ventures and the broader bp businesses offers us a wealth of global commercial and operational expertise,” he said. “It presents a great opportunity to deploy our 5B Maverick technology across a range of global markets.”

The company’s Maverick system is a ground-mounted solar array of up to 90 PV panels mounted on specially designed frames that can be unfolded and installed at speed. The modules are oriented in a concertina shape at a 10-degree tilt and electrically configured, allowing for rapid installation. Earlier this year, the company set a new speed record for solar deployment with 1.1 MW deployed in a single day by a crew of 10 people at AES’ Andes Solar II B solar farm in Chile’s Atacama Desert.

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5B said it has more than 60 MW of its Maverick solution deployed across more than 100 sites and is planning to ramp up the roll out of its technology.

The company has already signed agreements with the developers of several major projects, including the massive 20 GW Australia-Asia PowerLink being developed by Sun Cable in the Northern Territory, but the association with bp is expected to provide even more opportunities.

Bp Ventures Principal Johnathan Stone, who will join the 5B board of directors, said the investment arm will now work with 5B to explore the best opportunities to collaborate on the deployment of the Maverick technology on future bp and clean energy joint venture Lightsource bp projects.

“5B’s innovative solar technology can deliver low-cost power generation at speed, helping to meet rising electricity demand,” Stone said. “This deal is a fantastic example of bp investing in a business that will support our renewable energy transition growth engine. And is another strand of our multi-energy vector country strategy that will support the decarbonization of energy in Australia.”

Lightsource bp, which is half-owned by UK-based solar developer Lightsource Renewable Energy, announced in 2021 that it plans to reach 25 GW of solar project capacity by 2025 and has nominated Australia as one of its key markets. Lightsource bp already has five projects in operation or under construction across the Australian states of New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria.

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