Shanghai Electric (上海电气, 601727.SH), a state-owned manufacturer of industrial and energy equipment, recently rolled out a smart PV panel cleaning robot that it says can effectively reduce the safety hazards of solar farms and enhance the efficiency of power generation.
The robot is a response to a number of issues confronting solar farm operators over the past few years.
As China doubles down on its strategy to minimize carbon emissions and achieve carbon neutrality, solar farms have proliferated across the nation.
Among a host of problems that arose, many point to the difficulty of cleaning PV panels as a major headache.
Solar farms built in sandy and sunny localities face severe production losses due to the sand and dirt that blocks the sunlight needed to produce electricity.
Bird poop is another shared complaint, which reduces the amount of sunlight the panels receive. Besides, the acidic nature of bird droppings also causes damage to the panels, shortening their lifespan.
For distributed, rooftop solar power stations, operating at a height carries an inherent risk for cleaning personnel.
In response to these issues, Shanghai Electric came up with a lightweight PV cleaning robot, which is less than 60kg.
According to the firm, it autonomously generates and stores power, cleans in a water-free mode, navigates vertically and horizontally between rows of PV modules, and scales tilted panels.
Additionally, it is able to customize its route on its own, figure out its real-time position, accommdate differerent ways of communication, switch between stop and go via remote control, and work for a set period of time.
A highlight of the device is that it allows different types of cleaning robots to work simultaneously across adjoining rows of PV modules, without colliding into each other.
This effectively reduces the requirement for PV racking layout, one-off upfront investment and the cleaning time.
Shanghai Electric has deployed its solutions to various projects worldwide. One case is in a solar farm in Dubai, where the Shanghai conglomerate provided eight PV panel cleaning robots.
Through the use of robots, the solar farm increased its power supply efficiency by at least 20% compared to manual cleaning by humans.
Specifically, it added 103,000 kWh to its annual output, reaping an increase of 121,000 Emirati Dirham (US$32,948) in revenue and saving 24,000 Emirati Dirham in labor costs.