This Israeli startup makes robots that dry clean solar panels
Sunus Solar’s Notes:
There is amazing room for innovation in the solar industry. Take this article and many past articles we have featured as an example. Dry cleaning robots that clean massive stretches of solar panels over night then are recharged by those very solar panels in the morning. What a truly wonderful solution to a genuine problem. After all, dirty solar panels produce less energy.
Now, you shouldn’t expect this to be a commercial success with homeowners, after all a hose and squeegee will do the job for most of us, but it is nice to see continuous innovation in the solar energy industry.
Every night, nearly a hundred robots come to life in the arid desert of southern Israel and get busy cleaning rows and rows of solar panels.
The robots are designed by startup Ecoppia as an alternative to the conventional, but also labor-intensive, method of sending human workers to hose and wipe down panels manually or use a truck-mounted sprayer to do so.
Dirty panels produce less electricity, but the need to use water for cleaning those panels, especially in dry regions, makes even a clean power project less eco-friendly. And in certain remote corners, water extracted from the ground is too brackish for use without being treated, which adds to the production cost of a solar power plant.
In dusty areas such as the Middle East and India, solar panels could lose electricity production by 10 percent to 35 percent over time if they remain unwashed, Eran Meller, CEO of Ecoppia, told me in a recent interview.
Ecoppia’s robots dry clean each panel and move from the top to the bottom of a row of panels. The Israeli startup found a loyal customer in Arava Power, with which Ecoppia installed the first set of its robots on a solar farms (5 MW total) earlier this year in the Negev desert. Ecoppia is installing more robots in other Arava projects.
“It doesn’t pay to manually clean thousands of panels in hundreds of acres of arid desert fields,” said Jon Cohen, Arava’s CEO. “Now we have a process that costs less, and above that we are upping the output.” Using the robots so far has led to about 2-3 percent more electricity production than employing humans, Cohen said.
The challenge of keeping solar panels dust free will grow as more solar power projects are built worldwide. In many cases, cheap labor and ample water supply will continue to make manual washing the low-cost choice for solar power plant owners…