The venture capital arm of energy giant BP has donated $20 million to the Sydney solar panel start-up 5B, to complete its $55 million series B.
The additional funds from bp ventures conclude a 15-month capital campaign that saw the first $30 million raised in June, led by existing lenders AES Corporation and Artesian Venture. The two VCs tipped an additional $5 million alongside bp firms in the latest increase. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and climate activist Simon Holmes à Court are also among 5B’s investors.
5B has developed a rapid solar panel deployment system — it doesn’t manufacture them — called the 5B Maverick, on specially designed frames with up to 90 panels. This year, 5B Maverick was used to deploy solar systems with a capacity of 1.1 MW – the equivalent of a football field – in one day, with a team of just 10 people at AES’ Andes Solar II B facility in the Atacama- desert in Chile.
The system is now in 100 locations worldwide, with a generation capacity of more than 60 MW. 5b has also been identified as the preferred supplier for the massive $30 billion Sun Cable project in the Northern Territory to supply Singapore with renewable energy.
Former Infigen Energy colleagues Chris McGrath and Eden Tehan launched 5B in 2013.
McGrath, CEO of 5B, said bp’s venture capital will help support the company’s international expansion plans, including a manufacturing and assembly center in North America.
“It is hugely encouraging to see bp’s transition and we look forward to working together to accelerate that effort. Working with bp ventures and the wider bp businesses gives us a wealth of global commercial and operational expertise,” he said.
“It presents a great opportunity to deploy our 5B Maverick technology in a range of global markets. The support of such an active and experienced venture capital team is a strong endorsement of our technology and our ability to support bp in its transition to an integrated energy company.”
Johnathan Stone, director of bp ventures, will join 5B’s board of directors and said the scale-up will also work with other parts of the BP business to accelerate growth.
“5B’s innovative solar technology can generate energy quickly at a low cost, helping to meet the rising demand for electricity,” he said.
“This deal is a fantastic example of bp investing in a company that will support our growth engine for the transition to renewable energy. And is another part of our multi-energy vector country strategy that will support energy decarbonisation in Australia.
BP’s gas and low-carbon energy company and 50-50 joint venture, Lightsource BP, will begin using 5B Maverick systems for their projects.