Solar Panel Soiling
Utility-scale solar plants are well suited for places with strong sunlight and large areas of land that are covered neither by farms nor forest. However, solar panel soiling from wind-driven dust can be a major issue in these places. In semi-arid locations such as the San Joaquin Valley, in California, USA, unaddressed seasonal soiling can be severe enough to significantly degrade a project’s rate of return. In dusty arid places like Saudi Arabia or Rajasthan, India, year-round soiling conditions can make solar projects unviable unless regular solar panel cleaning is employed.
Alion Energy’s SPOT Panel Cleaning System
Alion Energy has developed a robotic solar plant cleaning solution to make effective, frequent panel cleaning fit into a project’s tight Operations and Maintenance budget. The racking and vehicle system have been designed together to elegantly leverage automation in a cost-effective way.
- The racking’s concrete ballast serves as a track for the vehicle. The vehicle neither drives dust into the air from driving on the ground nor puts weight on the panels or racking structure.
- The robotic vehicle operates autonomously while cleaning a solar panel row and carries its own water, ensuring high quality, repeatable cleaning results with very low labor usage.
- The vehicle moves from row to row, keeping robot count to a minimum. This reduces costs substantially, increases equipment flexibility, and reduces maintenance tasks versus solutions with one robot per row.
SPOT Cleaning Vehicle Components
The patent-pending SPOT Cleaning Vehicle is a track-based driving robot with a cleaning head, a water tank, a propulsion and energy system, and a control system. The cleaning head draws water from a water tank to deposit water on the solar panels and uses a spinning brush and a wiper to clean the panels. Alternatively, a dry-cleaning mode can be employed under certain soiling conditions to conserve water. The vehicle is driven by electric motors connected to the wheels. The vehicle is self-powered; a solar panel charges a battery system to provide power for the motors.