Studies proof efficiency losses of solar power plants due to soiling, such as sand, dust and other dirt. The data ranges from three to six percent in Europe (annually) and up to 35 % in the Middle East (monthly) of efficiency to be lost because of less light coming through to the solar cells.
SOLARBRUSH was first to set the focus of the robotic maintenance to arid regions: In the so called "Sunbelt countries" solar radiation is so high it enables solar energy to be competitive towards fossil fuels in many cases. Massive price drops for solar technology are driving further installations, which is expected to represent the cheapest form of energy around the equator.
SOLARBRUSH works on a cost-effective solution to secure the efficiency of solar energy in these arid markets.
We are the global pioneer in robots for solar power plants, as the inventor, Ridha Azaiz, developed the first robot for the purpose of cleaning solar panels back in 1998. Other systems have been developed upon this idea and are discussed on this page.
There are different approaches of cleaning solar cells. One is manual cleaning with a telescope brush that reaches high altitude. Sometimes this is combined with a lift on a car and a water supply. When choosing this option, consider costs for utilities, labour and water. The results using this option can be very good.
Another approach is an installation where sprinklers water the plant occasionally to wash the dirt off the field. The water is either lost or recycled with a catching tank below the field. Sometimes the water comes with pressure for better results. Costs for installation and water apply, but less for labour as the process is automated. The video seems to show good achievements.
There have been presentations with installed devices, e.g. brushes, sprinklers, covers and sponges, that are moved over solar modules to get rid of deposits. These usually require separate chains and drives around the solar field. While the solutions are automated, the technology is exposed to the weather. This makes the effort for maintenance questionable as errors might be hard to locate. Maintenance costs apply. These are static solutions that might be hard to relocate. Interrupted PV fields might therefore require multiple investments, e.g. on each array.
There have been converted fire engine cars or utility cars that have sprinkler arms that drive through the solar fields. Consider labour and investment for the car when choosing this option.
Less light coming through to the cells, abrasion by deposits in the wind and low temperature resistance make it hard for nano coatings to become available in outdoor environments such as with solar power.