Will Robots Operate Solar Power in the Future?
“Solar trackers”, or devices that position solar panels to follow the sun as it moves over the horizon, have been around for several decades now. The majority of today`s larger solar systems use them, and in some cases, they yield a performance boost of as much as 40%.
One solar tracker, which typically consists of a motor and controller, goes on the back of every solar panel. This is not by any means cheap, which is why solar trackers are seldom found on small residential solar systems.
Thankfully, a Californian startup company QBotix is sitting on a piece of new technology that could dramatically reduce the high costs of solar tracking.
Meet the solar tracker robot “SolBot”. The idea is that instead of installing one solar tracker for every solar panel, only two robots, which makes up “The QBotix Tracking System”, does the job for the entire solar power plant – or as many as 200 solar panels, which is about the same as a typical 300 kW system.
One robot is recharging while the other one is running around on a track, adjusting the solar panels to face the sun for maximum performance.
“The biggest drawback is perception. Our approach is so different that people have to be educated about how our innovation works. […] Think of it as a doctor going from one patient to the next, and in the process it’s sending information about the health of every tracker it visits,” explains Wasiq Bokhari, QBotix’s CEO.
The extra steel that is required for a one by one ratio between trackers and solar panels is costly. QBotix claims that they can produce solar trackers for just a few cents per watt, as opposed to typical solar trackers that operate in the price range of between 35 and 45 cents per watt.
Check out the video below for how this system is suppose to work:
“SolBot takes away more than half the steel used in tracking systems, reduces the cost by a factor of two and takes away hundreds of failure-prone motors.” Says Bokhari.
QBotix has received Series A financing – Siemens Venture Capital, Firelake Capital and several other well-known companies have invested a total of $6.5 million. QBotix will begin selling their robots already this month and have several customers lined up to buy their tracking system.
“The goal is to dramatically reduce the cost of solar energy.” says Bokhari.
If solar efficiency can go up by 40 percent by tracking the sun and removing the need for extra costly equipment then this technology couldn’t arrive sooner. It will be interesting to see who adopts the solbot Qbotix Tracking System and how much money and C02 could be saved from it.
Guest post written by Mathias Maehlum who is an Energy and Environmental engineering student from Norway and blogs at energyinformative.org.
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