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Australian robots to build the world’s solar farms | Blue Mountains Gazette

Already making panel blocks that unfold like a solar accordion, 5B engineers say robots can build the world’s solar farms even faster, safely and more cheaply.

The company says its flagship product, the pre-engineered, portable ‘Maverick’, can already deploy up to 10 times faster and generate up to twice as much energy using the same amount of land as solar power. conventional.

The new Advanced Manufacturing Pilot Line automated production system will use two-thirds of a $33.4 million investment in new technology announced Tuesday.

The rest will be used to develop robotics for the GPS-guided deployment of massive solar panels.

COO Nicole Kuepper-Russell said 5B co-founders Chris McGrath and Eden Tehan share her ambition for Australia to be a “cleantech powerhouse”.

“It doesn’t matter which side of politics you’re on, we’re talking about the next industrial revolution,” she said.

The company is named after the five billion years of sun we have left.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the robotic system is a “game changer” in the industry.

5B’s goal is a sharp reduction in the overall capital cost of a Maverick network, with a 35% cost reduction by 2023 and an expected 70% cost reduction by 2030, to 30 cents per watt.

“I’ve been a solar nerd for a very long time,” Dr. Kuepper-Russell told AAP.

She studied under the famous University of New South Wales professor, the late Stuart Wehham, who also taught Suntech founder Shi Zhengrong.

Having started with a solar car kit from her parents when she was eight years old, the engineer and former consultant is now part of efforts to further reduce the cost of large-scale solar power.

5B has grown from 30 employees to 200 over the past 18 months, with the Maverick now installed in Australia, the United States, Latin America and India.

A $14 million grant is provided by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which has had a reputation for selecting winners for almost 10 years.

“The world needs large-scale, very low-cost solar energy fast and this funding will accelerate the delivery of that,” said Dr Kuepper-Russell.

“We have 32 megawatts on the ground and lots in production, and a really strong backlog.

The federal grant helps redesign the existing manual assembly line and driver for the AI-enabled solar installation.

“Today it’s still, to some degree, manual. It takes about two people to put together a block or a Maverick unit,” Dr. Kuepper-Russell said.

The advanced manufacturing line will manufacture 40 per day.

In the field, a forklift and three people can deploy the array very quickly, but manual alignment work can be eliminated with GPS-guided robotics.

Last year, ARENA set the new goal of “Solar 30 30 30” to improve solar efficiency to 30% and reduce the cost of solar energy to 30 cents per watt, installed by 2030.

Australian Associated Press