Rapid-deployment solar arrays cut energy cost up to 20%, says 5B
Australian company 5B has developed a hinged, folding solar array for ridiculously quick and easy installation at industrial scale. In May, 5B showed just how quick: a team of 10 covered the area of a soccer field with a 1.1-MW array in a single day.
The company says it's not just the fastest array to install – it's also much easier to pack down and move than other designs, making it appropriate for non-permanent sites.
The idea here is simple enough – 5B pre-fabricates "Maverick" blocks of 40-90 large solar panels in a factory. Rows of cells are hinged at either end, allowing them to fold neatly up into a shipping container. They go onto trucks to be taken out to the site, where they're taken off the truck using a forklift. It only takes a team of three people to unfold the blocks into arrays and connect them up, and that team of three can deploy about a megawatt of solar a week.
The company says its east/west layout delivers up to two times the energy of a single-axis tracker setup for a given land area, and this, as well as the quicker, cheaper, plug-and-play installation process, results in a final energy cost reduction of up to 20%.
The cost of the panels themselves was always the biggest line item for early solar arrays, so installation costs were a lot less significant in the scheme of things. That's changed somewhat as panel prices have come down – according to an IRENA report from 2019, installation costs can range from 10% to more than a quarter of the total cost of a solar farm.
So an industrial-scale array that can be deployed so quickly using so few workers would definitely appear to be a big advantage. 5B is already shipping internationally – indeed, it's record-setting deployment in May was done in Chile. The company has already deployed the Maverick solution at around 10 sites, with a total generation capacity over 60 MW, and it's also moving to build a manufacturing and assembly hub in North America.
Check out the process in the video below.