Solar arrays in sunny desert locations have always encountered dust problems; it reduces the efficiency of the system and cleaning that dust becomes mandatory to keep the system functioning in a proper manner. This task is tiresome, labor-intensive as well as costly. London based Aerial Power had been looking to find a solution to this problem and the one they have introduced involves brush-carrying drones that skim along the arrays and clean their surfaces.
This problem has been tackled before through automated help. In 2009, a cleaning system was developed by a Californian Company Heliotex that sprayed water through nozzles installed on each panel at intervals set by the user. Earlier this year, a fleet of robots was deployed by Ketura Sun, the first solar field of Israel, that moved up and down the panels while brushing the dust off them with the help of a rotating brush.
According to what Aerial Power claims, 30 percent improvement in energy production can be achieved per month by keeping these surfaces clear of dirt. As this task is both expensive and time-consuming, it is often neglected, causing a decrease in the overall efficiency of the system. Aerial Power aims to reduce these maintenance costs by 70 percent.
This solution uses the so-called SolarBrush, a drone attachment that brushes the dust off the surface while sweeping across it. Ridha Azaiz, a German Engineer and Aerial Power’s founder, said that one advantage of using this system instead of the other robot cleaning systems is that it cleans an entire solar farm, using the pre-programmed flight paths. They don’t need manual guidance and placement to perform the task, hence reducing the human labor to bare minimum.
Solar Brush is currently being tested by Aerial Power in the Chilean desert on a 25 MW solar farm. It is planned to be licensed to manufacturers of solar panels and distributors very soon. This new invention will definitely aid the growth of solar power movement throughout the world.