Sharp Corp exhibited a robot that cleans the photovoltaic (PV) panels of a large-scale PV power plant at Ceatec Japan 2013, which runs from Oct 1 to 5, 2013, in Chiba Prefecture, Japan.
When the surface of a PV panel becomes dusty, its power generation capacity is lowered. Therefore, PV panels need to be regularly cleaned. The robot removes the dust from the surface while horizontally moving on an array of PV panels.
Specifically, the robot sprinkles water on the surface of panels and wipes up the water and dust with squeegees (rubber plates). When it finishes cleaning a horizontal row of panels, it automatically stops. Then, it is moved to the next row by hand to clean it from the opposite end. This process is repeated during nighttime hours to clean a large-scale PV power plant in several days.
The dimensions and mass of the robot are 600 (W) x 3,030 (L) x 300mm (H) and 50kg, respectively. Because its length can be adjusted, depending on the size of the PV panel module, it can be used for various types of panels. With an embedded battery, it can be continuously used for four hours.
Sharp has been testing the robot by operating one unit at an 84MW PV power plant in Thailand since 2012. The company will also test the cost and cleaning capability of the robot by using eight units. Currently, about 10 workers manually clean the plant with mops during nighttime hours. When the robot is used, however, the number of workers can be reduced to two, Sharp said.