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Utility-scale solar installation goes automated

Utility-scale solar installation goes automated

Utility-scale solar installation goes automated


Terabase announced it is launching an automated utility-scale solar installation system, dubbed Terafab. The company describes the service as an automated “field factory” that can double installation productivity. 

The installation system makes use of digital twins, logistics software, an on-site digital command center, a field-deployed automated assembly line, and installation rovers that can operate 24/7. 

The company also announced the grand opening of a Woodland, California manufacturing facility; “a factory to make factories.” The facility is currently manufacturing the first gigawatt Terafab assembly line with capacity to make more than 10 GW of Terafabs per year.  

Terabase said its system will double labor productivity when compared to traditional utility-scale installation methods. The system offers high-throughput, 24/7 operation, and modularity to enable rapid ramp-ups and higher solar field construction speeds, significantly reducing project schedules. 

“We successfully field-tested Terafab last year, building 10 MW of a 400 MW site in Texas. Today’s launch is the next step forward to rapid commercial scale-up,” said Matt Campbell, chief executive officer and co-founder of Terabase. 

Terabase has partnered with developer Intersect Power, engineering, procurement and construction firm Signal Energy, tracking hardware provider NEXtracker, and solar panel manufacturer First Solar to develop the Terafab facility. 

“Not only does our partnership with Terabase bring advanced installation technology to our next-generation Series 7 solar module, but it also enables a closed-loop packaging recycling system consistent with our vision of responsible solar,” said Nick Strevel, vice president of product, First Solar. “The Terafab system is another example of how homegrown American innovation can help accelerate the deployment of solar, enabling our country’s decarbonization ambitions.” 

Terafab is pegged for commercial deployment starting in Q3 2023. 

The company said that the automated installation system reduces the levelized cost of electricity for utility-scale solar projects. It is also scalable, built on a modular design that can be replicated and deployed quickly. 

Terafab reduces the physical safety risk of construction workers by eliminating the need to lift heavy solar panels and steel structures, often in harsh weather conditions, by utilizing automation on a climate-controlled assembly line. 

The system may offer a solution to the solar industry’s need to find more qualified installation technicians. A transition to a carbon-free energy sector is going to take a large, well-trained workforce, and readying that workforce may pose a challenge in the near-term, the company states.

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) said 89% of solar firms reported in 2021 they’ve had difficulty finding qualified applicants. recent survey by SolarReviews found that difficulty finding workers was the third-most common concern among survey participants. 

Solar now represents 59% of the clean power capacity in development, gaining 4% in share from 2021 to 2022, said the American Clean Power Association. To reach the federal goal of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035, the solar workforce will need to more than double from 255,000 to over 538,000, said the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Automation may offer a solution to the labor shortage as the nation works to rapidly decarbonize. 

In August 2022, Terabase Energy announced a $44 million Series B financing from Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Prelude Ventures, with participation from SJF Ventures and other previous investors, bringing the company’s total funding to date to $52 million. 

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