In a UK first, a Telford-based company has invested in robotic solar panel cleaning technology. Their investment has come at a time when renewable energy sources – including solar power – are generating almost a third of the UK's electricity.
Following a lengthy dry and clear period between April and June 2018, British solar energy generated a record 4.65TWh (terawatt hours) of electricity - enough to fuel over a million homes, say the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). This contributed to a total of 24.3TWh of renewable electricity during the second quarter of 2018, which is almost a third (31.7%) of the total UK electricity generated during the same period. Energy from burning coal fell to a record low of 1.6% during the same period, perhaps indicating that plans to phase out coal power completely by 2025 are starting to have an effect.
As the demand for energy increases, alternative sources are being sought, and it’s essential that we make the most of them. However, obstacles such as dirty solar panels – which are covered in a build-up of general dirt, dust and bird droppings that just won’t clean off with rain – mean that renewables often don’t function as efficiently as they could. The more light that hits a solar panel, the more electricity it can generate, but this build-up can adversely affect its power output and performance.
Regular cleaning of solar panels is time and labour intensive, especially when cleaning vast arrays and structures, but it is also highly neccesary. In response to improvements in technology and growing market demand, Clean Solar Solutions have become the first professional solar panel cleaning company to offer an automated process.
Clean Solar Solutions’ robot, which will be demonstrated for the first time at Solar & Storage Live 2018 in Birmingham, is ideal for cleaning large scale solar farms and parks with tens of thousands of solar panels. It will also be instrumental in maintaining rooftop solar panels, particularly those which are problematic or unsafe to clean due to their design and installation.
“This may be down to the roof material, a lack of safe access to a certain part of a roof, the lack of a mansafe system or even space for one to be retrofitted, fragile skylights or even the system design itself. All have proved to be stumbling blocks for cleaning for some system owners when it comes time to have their panels cleaned”, explains Steve Williams, the managing director of Clean Solar Solutions.
Some solar arrays on large roofs have a huge block of panels with panels 25 or more deep in portrait, 60 wide in landscape, with no walkways between any of these panels. With the best will in the world, manual cleaning simply cannot provide a quality clean on the centermost panels in these instances.
Steve Williams, Managing Director, Clean Solar Solutions
The company recognised some time ago that a better solution was needed, but the robotic cleaning technology of the time was simply not up to standard. The technology has now advanced, and the company are using it to help improve the efficiency of solar panel by up to 30% in agricultural settings, up to 60% on industrial and commercial sites, and by up to 21% on residential arrays.