Dust clears for Sunpure as PV panel cleaning robot maker bags US$14m in Series A

Traditionally, human labor is a method of choice in solar cell cleaning, but these days this has gradually given way to semi-automatic and eventually to robot-assisted cleaning.

Sunpure Technology (仁洁智能), a photovoltaic (PV) cleaning robot developer, yesterday announced a Series A round of funding worth over 100 million yuan (US$14.12 million), Chinese media reported.

The round was led by Hengxu Capital, with participation from Meta TAGC and Guoyuan Securities. GL Ventures, a big-name backer from the previous pre-Series A round, also injected money into the deal.

The raise will be used to support R&D of smart robots and full-scenario automated cleaning solutions for solar panel modules, so as to meet growing demand for intelligent PV station management worldwide.

Industry research suggests that energy loss resulting every year from dust or bird droppings deposited on solar panel surfaces could make up around 5% of the entire electricity generated.

Photo courtesy of Sunpure

Removing these items from solar panels has thus been of growing economic value to PV station operators.

Traditionally, human labor is a method of choice in solar cell cleaning, but these days this has gradually given way to semi-automatic and eventually to robot-assisted cleaning.

Data analytics

By analyzing data of energy loss due to dust, robots from Sunpure could customize the cleaning sessions required for solar panel modules in different locations.

Besides, they also combine position identification, posture adjustment and AI-driven control technologies in performing their tasks.

Sunpure claims its innovations not just overcome technical barriers like automated path correction, slope climbing and obstacle avoidance. Instead, they are also built to withstand gales and cling to panels.

The cleaning efficiency could reach 99.5%, the company said, meaning its robotic cleaners could miss one in 200 panels.

“In the future, Sunpure will fully use the resources from the latest raise and boost its R&D spending… to foster the smart transition and sophistication of the PV industry, to contribute to the sector’s growth,” said Hu Yuran, chairman and CEO of Sunpure, which operates from its head office in Hefei, capital of Anhui Province.

Photo courtesy of Sunpure

Improved efficiency

In a statement, GL Ventures, one of the firm’s backers, said it successfully solved the cleaning and maintenance issues confronting PV stations, and as a result improved power generation efficiency.

It also cut the levelized cost of energy, meaning the cost of energy production throughout a project’s lifespan.

To date, the company has signed contracts with PV stations whose aggregate installed electricity capacity exceeds 13GW. Its core products have been applied in 14 geographies spanning the Middle East, Latin America, China and India.

Its cleaning robots cater to a myriad of topographies ranging from mountain, desert and fish farm to farm and building rooftop.

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Ni Tao

Ni Tao is the founder and editor-in-chief of cnrobopedia. Prior to cnrobopedia, he had a full decade of experience with a major state-run English-language newspaper as a tech reporter and opinion writer. He is also a communications specialist, having provided consultancy services to established firms like Siemens, Philips, ABinBev, Diageo, Trip.com Group (Nasdaq: TCOM, HK: 9961), Jianpu Technology (NYSE: JT) and a handful of domestic startups. A graduate of Fudan University, he writes widely about China's business and tech scenes and other topics for global publications including South China Morning Post, SupChina, The Diplomat, CGTN, Banking Technology, among others, and tries to impart his experience to students at Fudan University Journalism School, where he is a part-time lecturer. When he's not writing about robotics, you can expect him to be on his beloved Yanagisawa saxophones, trying to play some jazz riffs, often in vain and occasionally against the protests of an angry neighbor. Get in touch with him by dropping a line at nitao0927@gmail.com.

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