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Thursday, March 28, 2024

‘We have a solution where others do not’: 5B eyes landfill solar projects and expanded manufacturing

These projects are also of significant scale, with the Waaree project boasting a capacity of 15MW per month, and with potential to ramp up to gigawatt-scale, while the company has taken its largest-ever order for a US project standing at 70MW that is scheduled to begin deployment in the second half of 2024.

The order of 1,400 5B Maverick arrays, with more than 125,000 modules, will be delivered out of the new Indian facility, whose products will be compliant with US import restrictions.

“In terms of demand, our US-compliant supply chain out of India will service demand from the US in waste management and electric vehicle (EV) transport infrastructure,” a 5B spokesperson tells PV Tech Premium. “Waaree will be 5B’s ecosystem partner in India for domestic sales.

“India has announced ambitious renewable targets and has introduced substantial industrial and policy programmes to meet them.”

A growing landfill and PV portfolio

The unnamed waste management facility operator in the US is attracted to 5B’s ‘plug-and-play’ Maverick solution due to its low ground penetration and ability to generate more power per acre than most PV layouts, the 5B spokesperson claims.

The Maverick solution ↗ is a pre-assembled PV structure, complete with added solar modules, that can be unfolded and deployed easily at project sites, thereby dramatically reducing installation times and labour hours. Pre-assembled solutions can also be re-deployed in other locations, which mitigates fears about the potentially high financial and environmental costs of decommissioning ↗ a PV project.

5B has already worked on two such sites in Australia, where this week it wrapped up a 16.9MW deployment on a waste rock dump in Western Australia ↗ for a mining company with its EPC partner Zenith Energy. It has also completed a 1.5MW deployment on a landfill site for a waste management company in Albury, New South Wales, which supplies power to a hydrocarbon processing plant and the regional town.

Solutions for the sector

End-of-life landfills tend to be unsuitable for building on because there is a safety risk presented by landfill gas emitted and captured through wells. Furthermore, the capping of a landfill is not a stable platform to build on. However, the 5B Maverick solution’s anchoring can be adjusted to accommodate the limits of any size cap.

At Albury, anchor depths were reduced to allow the landfill’s cap or membrane, which covers the surface, to remain intact. As the Maverick can be easily re-located, a gas line running underneath this landfill could also be accessed when needed in the future.

The Maverick solution also has high wind resilience that can withstand hurricanes and cyclones better than normal PV projects, according to the company’s leadership.

“The implication of that wind resilience is that we also have less foundation or less ground penetration and that means that at sites with difficult geotechnical engineering, such as landfills, tailings dams, rock dumps at mines, and any other kind of marginal, recovered or reclaimed land, we have a solution where others do not,” Simeon Baker-Finch, 5B CTO, tells PV Tech Premium.

“You don’t need to hold the modules with a big underground steel pole. If you’re on a landfill site, you might have hundreds of millimetres or one metre of capping material and if you have a two-metre-deep pile you have no idea about what the structural behaviour is at that pile.”

The Maverick also has a substantial heaviness with each 50kW array weighing between five-and-a-half and six tonnes, which means it can hold itself down easily against winds. Baker-Finch adds that no additional ballast or anchoring is required in many applications.

Assembly and supply strategy

5B has three assembly locations globally, as it looks to grow its manufacturing footprint. These include its first commercial assembly factory and centre of excellence in Adelaide, Australia, catering for the Australian market. It also has a second assembly location in Vietnam and its forthcoming new venture in India in partnership with Waaree.

The company’s new CEO David Griffin, who was appointed last November, has said publicly that there is potential to expand the Adelaide facility so the Indian expansion “in no way detracts from our local Australian manufacturing”.

This emphasis on new manufacturing capacity is particularly significant as the US has enforced a range of trade restrictions on solar products ↗, so 5B’s Indian factory has a particular focus on being US-compliant.

“There are multiple fluctuating and shifting sands in respect of US imports on not only solar modules, but also steel, cables and so on,” says Baker-Finch. “Once the product is assembled as a Maverick, it does effectively become a solar module.”

“The other exciting thing about our India assembly location is that we increasingly see the opportunity to optimise the module for the maverick and to co-optimise the system as a sort of singular solar solution. Physically co-locating with a module factory means that the entire logistics of a prefabricated solar solution are further condensed, and we can optimise for logistics more effectively and ultimately, we can achieve a lower total cost.”

The factory, which will supply modules both domestically and abroad, is a joint partnership with one of India’s largest manufacturers, Mumbai-headquartered Waaree.

The Waaree Group subsidiary , has supplied more than 6GW of solar modules and commissioned more than 1.1GW of solar EPC projects as of June last year, and  Waaree Energies has announced a plan to build a 3GW module manufacturing plant ↗ in Houston, Texas.

Meanwhile, 5B has 140MW of installed solar capacity worldwide. For its Maverick solutions made outside of India, the company works mostly with tier-one module suppliers to combine with its PV structures, but works with client requests.

“We generally support customers with their desired module supplier,” adds Baker-Finch. “They either free issue the modules, or we facilitate procurement of the modules and shipping to the assembly location.”

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