E4-like robotic tech key to solar future of India

By Editor


India, one of the ‘prime accused’ in global carbon emissions, is looking to undo that status by turning to renewable energy.

The country has set the target of developing 175-gigawatt renewable energy capacity by 2022. That includes 100GW of solar power.

Although the ambitious solar power target — thirty times the existing capacity of 3GW, and five times the previous target of 20GW — might be achieved through a focused approach, getting the functional solar projects to consistently produce electricity presents several challenges.

Dust forms a barrier to solar energy production, especially at projects sited in deserts. Although deserts possess excellent solar potential, dust hinders production in such environments.

International Journal of Sustainable Energy says soiling of panels can reduce energy production by about 40 percent. That means significant delay in return on investment for developers.

One traditional method of maintaining solar panels is by washing them down with water either manually or with the help of automated systems. But the technique consumes large quantities of water.

And with poor availability of water, especially in deserts, using water to wash down panels is unviable and not sustainable.

In recent times panel cleaning robots have been finding greater application in the industry.

Israeli technology solutions company Ecoppia recently launched one such product that keeps panels clean without using water.

The robot named E4 can be programmed to follow cleaning schedules and Ecoppia claims it removes 99 percent dust from panels during their runs. The self-charging, self-cleaning machine has been tested in the Negev desert, Israel, and in a few other locations in the Middle East.

Eran Meller, the CEO and co-founder of Ecoppia believes India will need technology such as E4 to support its solar power generation.

“The expansion of India’s solar energy market will only be sustainable and profitable for developers, investors and consumers if the solar systems take advantage of innovative technology improvements which negate high costs incurred by traditional labor- and water-intensive cleaning processes,” Meller said.

“Mega and ultra-mega plants will require cleaning solutions that do not rely on water and labor but instead on automated systems,” he added.

By end of this year Ecoppia may launch a product suited for India in the country. It also has plans to establish an assembly unit in India led by local R&D and operations experts.

India will be required to go for more such technological innovations to take its renewable energy vision beyond merely achieving targeted addition of capacity.

Ajith Kumar S

[email protected]

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