Building a huge utility-scale solar farm that has thousands upon thousands of panels that all need to be transported and mounted and wired is an incredibly labor- and time-intensive affair. But there is another way, and it calls for robots.
According to Alion Energy, by using robotic installation technologies, utility-scale solar PV plants can be built two times faster than with conventional techniques, while also requiring 75% less labor.
The company’s approach uses extruded concrete rails as a combination mounting rack and cable trench, to which the Alion’s robotic installation vehicle, ROVER, attaches the PV panels, which are then secured with industrial-grade adhesives. By using an automated and uniform process, and by eliminating the need for metal frames and mounting hardware, they claim to have sped up installation time while also reducing the costs of utility-scale solar.
“Alion Energy has brought the speed, precision and efficiency of robotics to solar. Through using robotic installation and cleaning technologies, we’ve eliminated flaws that plague the installation process.
Now, we can build plants that are not only the most cost-effective solution within the solar mix, but have a roadmap to deliver solar electricity at costs that can compete with any generation source.” – Mark Kingsley, CEO of Alion Energy
After the panels are mounted and operational, a second automated solution from Alion takes over and keeps them clean.
SPOT, Alion’s robotic cleaning system, can be mounted on the end of each row and then programmed to automatically travel across the row and wash the surface of the PV panels at regular intervals, which prevents inefficiencies due to accumulated dust and dirt.
SPOT is powered by the sun (what else?), and is said to use 90% less water than manual washing methods.
Read more about Alion’s robotic installation system at Renewable Energy World.
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