Robert Jardine is the founder of Out of the Box Energy Solutions, a renewable energy start-up that develops and distributes mobile solar PV and hybrid solar PV products into Southern Africa. In support of the editorial on Containerized and Mobile Solar Solutions in the September/October 2017 Edition of African Mining Brief, Jardine is interviewing industry leaders on the genesis of mobile solar systems, and their application and adoption in mining. In an interview with Chris McGrath, the Co-founder and CEO of 5B, a renewable technology company leading the market in the development of solar as a mobile product, he finds out about the relevance of 5B’s mobile solar solutions in addressing the urgent demand for “fast-track” solar power solutions.
5B are the developers and manufacturers of Maverick a portable, prefabricated, modular solar array that through its patented design lowers the cost of energy, and the project risks traditionally associated with ground mounted solar systems.
Speaking to Chris, it is clear that 5B have approached the development of their Maverick array from his experience in the development of utility scale solar projects. He brings the best practices of the field along with innovative design and established macro trends of modular and prefabrication into the patented Maverick solar array design.
The Maverick solar array design
Through streamlining the procurement and design process and simplifying the project delivery, the Maverick system has reduced the installation time, using fewer materials and refining the logistics involved. More to the point, mobile and re-deployable, the Maverick system delivers dramatic reductions in the overall cost of a solar array.
Chris explains that the Maverick Solar Array process starts with a detailed aerial drone survey that allows them to quickly develop a design and quote for each project (in the past 3 months they have scoped and cost over 150MW). The east west orientation of the array allows for a greater number of solar panels to be deployed in a square area thereby increasing the energy density achieved. This further reduces the overall cost of an energy project by reducing the size of land required and the balance of system costs as well as supporting services.
The design takes into consideration the wind loading and topography of a site. Noteworthy, the Maverick has been certified for high wind loads and is currently being assesses for full cyclonic conditions.
Although the Maverick solar array prefers level ground, the array is reasonably flexible, and to date, 5B has not had a site that they have been unable to design a system for. The design of the Maverick solar array enables it to be laid over existing vegetation in most cases or with some isolated and light touch treatment of the site, thereby removing the traditional steps of site scraping and profiling as required by many existing ground-mounted solar systems. This light touch approach to installation carries financial and environmental benefits that will fit many sites in protected areas where the installation is for a limited duration project, helping with the Environmental Impact assessment for a project.
The entire DC array is prefabricated, pre-wired, and tested in the 5B factory, shifting construction, labour, and risk from the project site into the factory. The Maverick’s open design architecture enables it to include most standard 60 and 72 cell PV modules.
Currently, a Maverick solar array is a 4 x 8 module array set up on 5 beams which ships in a 20-foot container with up to 4 Mavericks per container. Using 72 cell 350 W modules, this equates to 11.2kWpeak per Maverick and 44.8kWpeak per 20-foot container.
The speed and easy deployment of the Maverick are where the largest efficiencies and savings are found when compared to traditional ground mounted solar arrays. A 100kWpeak array is installed with two men and a 5-ton forklift/telehandler in less than a day and a 1MW solar farm could be installed in under 10 days. This is a dramatic saving against traditional ground mounted solar arrays in terms of time and costs without considering the added benefit of the array ability to be redeployed with the same resources and the same ease and speed.
A Mini Mav has been developed for smaller installations or sites where it is not feasible to have a 5-ton forklift/telehandler or a 20-ton container to support the installation. The Mini Mav is a quarter of the size of a Maverick Array, having 2 x 4 Modules with 3 beams. The Mini Mav ships on the back of a Hiab truck and is deployed with a set of custom tools and a 3-man team.
The Maverick and Mini Mav solar arrays use the weight of the concrete beams and ground anchors to fix them to the ground. The result being very limited and shallow ground penetration. This enables the deployment of the mobile solar arrays on hazardous landfills that have been treated and have shallow and fragile barrier layers.
There are plans to expand the Maverick design to a 5 x 8 module solar array, increasing the density of power per Maverick to 14kWpeak and 56kWpeak per 20-foot container..
Currently, Jinko have certified the Maverick Solar Array mounting system for their product warranty and 5B plans to expand this list in the coming months.
Great interest from mining contractors
Maverick launched in Sydney Australia in July of this year and was featured at the Diggers and Dealers mining trade show, where it received great interest from remote mining contractors and traditional decentralized diesel generator power suppliers. The mobile solar array’s ability to provide power for short to medium term durations and thereafter to be quickly and easily re-deployed were seen as great benefits, allowing the savings and benefits from hybrid solar energy solutions to be offered for projects of shorter duration
Just what Africa needs
In Africa and many developing nations and remote areas without grid power, diesel generators have been the go-to solution, but in recent years solar power has become competitive as a hybrid solution working alongside the traditional diesel generator. However, this expansion has been limited by the traditional fixed location design for solar arrays, which requires long-term energy offtake plans to be in place for the fixed location and life of the solar assets. Maverick as a mobile solar array changes this.
All things considered, the ease, speed, and efficiency of the deployment and redeployment of the solar array enable Solar Power to be used as a temporary, short, and medium-term power source that mining and other sectors in Africa can surely benefit from.
For more on the wonders of the Maverick watch this video https://5b.com.au/solutions/
Robert Jardine is the founder of Out of the Box Energy Solutions, a renewable energy start-up that develops and distributes mobile solar PV and hybrid solar PV products into Southern Africa. Making solar power a viable power source for short, temporary, and medium-term power requirements, Out of the Box Energy Solutions install, supply, and lease Maverick mobile solar arrays for Southern Africa.
For more information on Out of the Box Energy Solutions’ products, visit www.outofthebox.energy