Around the world, there has been an increase in use of solar technology as it offers cheap, clean and renewable energy. Many homes and office buildings have been mounting solar panels to help reduce energy bills, which over a period of time does just that by a considerable amount. Once installed, they usually require nearly no maintenance care unless, of course, they malfunction due to built-up of residue: dirt and dust, for one, can drastically reduce the energy output unless cleaned.
Normally, liquid soap and use of a soft brush with an extension pole and water is all that is needed to clean tilted and flat solar panels. If left unclean, the photovoltaic system comprised of an array of solar panels can become obstructed and not absorb enough sun to generate electricity or provide a hot water supply; therefore, cleaning them is essential, especially for those mounted in harsh environments, such as in Saudi Arabia.
Since Saudi Arabia is largely desert, it is prone to several dust and sand storms; this isa meteorological phenomenon common there. For that reason, it is necessary to clean solar panels often. Washing them like a windshield with soap and water, manually, may be all that is needed to wash them. Yet new technology has another solution to help do the cleaning: robots.
Putting solar panels in the Saudi Arabian desert may not seem the best thing to do with the challenge of having to clean them continuously, but with its intention to “spend over $100 billion to build vast solar arrays and reduce its dependency on oil to generate electricity,” the largest country in the Arabian Peninsula found its solution: Miraikikai's No-Water Duster Solar Panel Robot.
Miraikikai Inc. is a Japanese Robotics and Mechatronics Equipment Research and Development start-up company that is able to solve the problem of dusty solar panels.
It is with its WallWalker's ubiquitous cleaning robot that doesn't need water that can move freely on surfaces using its suckers and driving wheels that can cover the entire solar panel facade and will be able to do the necessary sweep away, automatically without human intervention.
The robot uses a rotating brush to clean the surface of solar panels. It is able to clear-out dust and dirt residue. With a touch of a button mechanism, it is able to work as well as most human cleaners and allow savings in labor costs; it is sure to be a market hit.
Not only is the “WallWalker” lightweight (24 lbs.) and small enough (22 inches) to be carried around, it is able to clean top-to-bottom on a two-hour battery.
This handy automated “dry sweep” cleaning solar panel robot will be marketed in Saudi Arabia this year with an objective to be marketable in the entire Middle East and North Africa next year where there is also a demand for solar-generated electricity and where water is scarce.
At this time, one can find more waterless solar-panel-cleaning robots under development. Other than the WallWalker, there is Nomadd, which is a simple, rugged and low-maintenance “no-water mechanical automated dusting device.”
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Edited by Rachel Ramsey