Solar panel prices have fallen dramatically in recent years, falling 40% in the last year alone, and this has helped it become more competitive with fossil fuels, although it still has some way to go. Nowadays though, the manufacturing cost of PV modules only actually accounts for about a third of the cost of a solar power plant, meaning that developers must research new methods for cutting the costs.
Martin Simonek, a solar analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said that, “to be honest, there hadn’t been that much innovation happening. There’re only so many ways you can put panels on the roof or the ground.”
That is true, but it turns are there is more than one way of making sure that a panel follows the trajectory of the sun across the sky to increase productivity.
Wasiq Bokhari, the CEO of QBotix, has claimed that, “we are the first company to bring robotics to the operation of solar power plants. Much of the cost of a solar plant is the steel. The robots allow us to take out 50% of the steel used in the system.”
Normally, in order to increase the efficiency of a solar panel, it is installed on a dual axis tracking system which contains motors to angle the face of the panel towards the sun throughout the day, increasing electricity production by as much as 45%.
Solar power plants can consist of thousands of panels, and providing each one with a dual axis system and motor is very expensive. QBotix eliminates all of those systems and replaces them with one, battery powered robot, Cutting costs by as much as 15% and increasing electricity generation, compared to a static panel, by 30-40%.
Bokhari noted that, “the robot itself costs only a few cents a watt,” runs on a lithium-ion battery, and can adjust 200 solar panels in just 40 minutes, for just 30 cents of electricity a day.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com