Thursday, April 18, 2024

SandStorm, an advanced solar panel cleaning robot

Solar energy is a very popular source of generating renewable energy. Many companies are creating solar parks to generate and deliver maximum green energy. Solar panels must be directly exposed to sunlight to harness the energy effectively. However, over time, the accumulation of dust and dirt on the solar panels can reduce the energy output of the solar panels. So, regular solar panel cleaning is essential to ensure that the solar panel works at an optimum level and gives maximum efficiency.

Generally, solar panel cleaning involves water-based cleaning systems, heavy machines, or manual cleaning of solar panels. Researchers are developing several innovative systems to meet the challenge of cleaning solar panels.

A Sicilian robotic technology startup, REIWA Engine, in collaboration with Enel Green Power, has developed and perfected SandStorm, an advanced solar panel cleaning robot.

The cleaning robot uses a system of specially designed and manufactured brushes capable of moving from one row of panels to the next over a distance of more than 50 cm.

SandStorm is the first robot Reiwa Engine manufactured in the solar panel cleaning field. It is light and easy to assemble, optimizes logistics and transportation, does not wear out, and is equipped with patented software that allows real-time maintenance and free maintenance.

Sandstorm’s cleaning robot operates at night, avoiding shading the panels, which can cause electrical imbalances and panel damage. It also recharges autonomously, returning to its docking station at the end of its task. With the help of the SandStorm robot, solar panel cleaning is possible at a low cost, with a 30% reduction in maintenance costs, and without any human assistance. It does use water to clean the panel or any diesel-based motors making its carbon emissions.

The cleaning robot has a patented technology by REIWA Engine that makes it possible to increase energy production at a lower cost. Because of these capabilities, Enel Green Power has shown interest in the REIWA engine project and is testing its performance.

The cleaning system was successfully tested first in Enel Green Power Innovation Lab at Passo Martino (Catania) and then on an industrial scale in a section (1-MW) of the Enel Green Power plant in Totana (Spain). Now Enel Green Power is scaling up the application of this technology with the implementation of around 150 robots in two Spanish PV plants, Totana and Las Corchas, for a total capacity of 135 MW.

The Sandstorm robot, after the first tests carried out in the laboratories of Enel Green Power, now awaits further performance tests to understand how it can increase its efficiency and to what extent it can reduce the negative effects of soiling on the production of solar energy from photovoltaic panels.