Robot with brush, water, wiper tackles solar panel cleaning

December 2, 2013 by Nancy Owano weblog
Robot with brush, water, wiper tackles solar panel cleaning
Credit: Sinfonia Technology/via TechOn

( —At large-scale solar plants, keeping the surfaces of solar panels free from dust, sand and bird droppings is not just a matter of finicky housekeeping. It can be a matter of plant profitability. Dirty panels lower power generation efficiencies. Bird droppings on panels, for example, block the sunlight. A Tokyo-based company has a solution. Sinfonia Technology announced late last month that it has developed a robot with camera and sensors that can move autonomously and clean solar panels at large-scale solar power plants. Sinfonia's robot has a distinction in being "autonomous" in that, rather than tethered to rails, the robot is able to move from panel to panel, to tackle the panels' dirt and debris. The robot is equipped with scrub brush, wiper and detergent; and also sprinkles water stored in its tank. The robot can work in the dark; it has LEDs, having wavelengths in the infrared range.

Aside from autonomy, another key distinction is that Sinfonia's robot can handle the fact that not all are alike; the robot is designed to tackle panels that tilt in different ways. To clean tilted solar panels on a mounting system, the robot can move on a planes tilted at 5-30°. If there is a gap between panels, the robot can go over a gap of 50cm or less and can deal with a height difference of 30cm or less.

The robot is powered by a battery and is capable of . A tablet can be used to check the 's status—to check if, for example, it has enough water or to check the battery charge remaining.

Sinfonia Technology, in promoting the benefits of its panel-cleaning robots, also noted cost advantages over using manpower for cleaning panels.

Generally, experts say that, for large-scale solar panel installations, attention to keeping the panels clean makes sense. Earlier this year, however, a study out of the Jacobs School of Engineering at University of California San Diego, in quantifying losses of electricity output due to dirty solar panels, found panels that hadn't been cleaned, or rained on, for 145 days during a summer drought in California lost on average a little less than 0.05 percent of their overall efficiency per day. Cleaning the panels often was not worth the cost, found the study's engineers. They cautioned, though, that their study focused on smaller systems and that, for very large installations, economies of scale may mean that washing panels was worth it.

Sharp, meanwhile, is another Japan-based company showing interest in devising automatic ways to clean solar panels. Last month, IDG News Service reported that Sharp, manufacturers of solar panels and generation systems, placed on show at the Ceatec expo in Tokyo an automatic cleaner to latch on to the top of a bank of solar panels and clean them. According to the report, Sharp is working toward commercializing the cleaner, which will first work on the company's own panels.

Explore further: Solar panels released in an array of colors

More information:

via TechOn

Related Stories

Solar panels released in an array of colors

June 7, 2011

( -- Solar panels are, for the most part, large black panels, made of squares, but what if it does not have to be that way. What if users could get all of the benefits of solar panels without making their roofs ...

New startup uses robot to reposition solar panels (w/ Video)

September 5, 2012

(—As prices for solar panels continue to fall, those looking to make money selling large arrays have increasingly been turning their attention to the physical infrastructure that supports the panels. To keep the ...

Power boosting self-cleaning solar panels

November 22, 2013

High-power, self-cleaning solar panels might be coming soon to a roof near you. There are two obvious problems with photovoltaic cells, solar panels. First, they are very shiny and so a lot of the incident sunlight is simply ...

Recommended for you

The ethics of robot love

November 25, 2015

There was to have been a conference in Malaysia last week called Love and Sex with Robots but it was cancelled. Malaysian police branded it "illegal" and "ridiculous". "There is nothing scientific about sex with robots," ...

No lens? No problem for FlatCam

November 23, 2015

How thin can a camera be? Very, say Rice University researchers who have developed patented prototypes of their technological breakthrough.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Dec 10, 2013
Heres a strange little gadget

-And another way at it

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.