The project is the largest solar farm under development in the world and will supply loads in the Darwin and Singapore markets via high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission. The project will commence construction in late 2023, near Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. Power generated by the farm will be exported to Singapore via a 3,750 kilometre undersea HVDC cable, providing up to 20% of Singapore’s electricity.
5B were selected as preferred technology partner for the project due to their revolutionary solar array technology, Maverick; a modular, pre-fabricated and plug & play solution that enables deployment of solar faster and at lower cost than ever before. Chris McGrath, 5B CEO, commented; “The Sun Cable project exemplifies the possibilities unlocked with our Maverick technology. We developed the Maverick solution precisely to allow solar deployment that is simpler, faster and smarter and by doing so, opening new opportunities for solar. Our solution streamlines engineering, procurement & construction and transfers cost, time & risk from the construction site to our factory – so in a controlled environment where high productivity and quality can be achieved – key for a project of this scale and in such a remote location as the Australian Outback. The fact that our Maverick solution is now driving a cost of solar energy so competitive that Australia can export that energy from the Outback to Singapore, is tremendously exciting and marks a significant tipping point for the energy market.”
5B will deploy the project at record low cost and speed, with a special variant of its Maverick solution, the Big Field Maverick, or BFM. 5B’s current Maverick solution is already pushing the boundaries of low cost and speed for solar array delivery – however the BFM, specifically targeted at mega and giga scale projects – will undoubtedly be setting a new solar farm delivery land-speed record, at a blistering pace of more than 15MWp per day, or 1MW per person per week.
In a significant step for Sun Cable and 5B, the first block of Maverick technology was deployed in July 2019 to commence detailed onsite monitoring of the solar and meteorological conditions at the Sun Cable site.
David Griffin, Sun Cable CEO, explains “The project is scheduled to start producing power from late 2027. The construction related logistical challenges are extensive. 5B’s centrally pre-fabricated and rapidly deployed Maverick solution, provides the simplest and lowest risk means to manage a project of this scale, especially in the remote Australian Outback.”
Due to the long term horizon of this project, it was also important for Sun Cable to take into account the trajectory of current technology and likely market conditions into the future. Maverick has been specifically developed by 5B and is recognised by its partners and customers, as being the solar farm of the future. McGrath explains, “As the cost of solar PV modules continue to fall, the focus for the industry becomes more and more centred on the challenge of getting solar modules from their point of manufacture, into the field and delivering energy in the fastest, lowest cost way possible. 5B, along with other pioneers in the industry, see this as driving a paradigm shift away from single axis tracking, which is enjoying its renaissance in current market conditions, towards low cost, energy dense east-west solutions, such as Maverick. Our Maverick solution also takes this a critical step further – providing the platform through its centralised pre-fabrication and on-site rapid deployment approach, for end to end streamlining of the supply chain for delivery of solar farms – as opposed to current slow and laborious ‘stick built’ or in situconstruction practices.”
McGrath explains “To date, 5B’s Maverick solution has found itself being deployed in largely off-grid, remote or distributed projects, such as oil & gas or mine sites, as its rapid deployment and inherent re-deployability are most highly valued in these applications. These applications have provided a very important springboard for us as we have matured and optimised the technology, and will always form an important part of our market. However, deploying massive MW scale projects at ground-breaking speed and cost has always been the ultimate objective for our Maverick solution, making it ideally suited to the Sun Cable project.”
The Maverick blocks for the project will be fed to the site from Darwin in the north and Adelaide in the south by the Darwin-Adelaide railway line, requiring a more than kilometre long train every few days and in the order of the equivalent of 40,000 shipping containers. At the peak of delivery, they will be arriving and being deployed at a rate of more than 100 BFMs, or 15MWp, per day. The project is also expected to create 1,000 to 2,000 jobs in total, with approximately half of these associated with the solar farm delivery. Converting the process from construction in the field to centralised pre-fabrication in factories means that this phenomenal delivery pace will be achieved with a modest team of 50 to 100 people onsite, supported by a force of 500 to 1,000 people in the production facilities.
5B has formed a strategic collaboration for the industrialisation and scaling of its Maverick solution for both Australia, and globally, with IXL Solar. IXL Solar is a member of the IXL Group – one of Australia’s longest operating manufacturing businesses, with deep roots in Australia’s automotive manufacturing history. Having prospered in the automotive industry for decades, IXL has made a strong diversification towards renewables, establishing local capacity for manufacturing of a range of solar mounting technologies.
5B’s participation in the Sun Cable project puts into sharp focus the opportunities for Australia’s economic future – demonstrating not just the opportunity for a shift to exporting energy from Australia that is produced sustainably, but also complementing this with a shift towards a knowledge-based economy, by affirming Australia’s position as a world leader in renewable energy technology, ready for export to power the world.