by David Geer
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
First Robot For Cleaning Solar
Cells Sees The Light!
When the solar energy producer cannot bring the panels to the car wash, it is
time to bring the car wash to the panels! Industrial/mechanical engineering students
from Northeastern University in Boston have designed and constructed a
prototype robotic cleaning head and pulleys for solar panels. This work was
performed on behalf of the Green Project, a Greek start-up focused on sustainable
energy. The PV Cleaner Robot v1.0 apparatus — which must be assembled and
installed by hand — autonomously cleans solar panel arrays of increasing scale
with greater efficiency than a crew of human workers. This is important
because sand, dust, and debris build up to block the sun and reduce power.
Tmakes cleaning very efficient. It also ensures that the
surfaces of all panels are systematically cleaned with a
he PV Cleaner Robot uses a controlled process which
high level of precision. A hose and water have no where
near the same impact or reliability on debris removal.
Solar panel arrays can be located anywhere. Elevated
locations add personal injury risk for employees and liability
risk for the company who owns the panels and/or
employs the cleaners.
When companies use the robotic cleaner, human risks
of falling are reduced to setting up up the robotic cleaner,
which takes two people about 15 minutes. This reduces the
liability for teams of workers employed all day to clean all
As the robot cleans the arrays, the water it uses also
cools the solar panels, increasing their efficiency.
The PV Cleaner Robot.
10 SERVO 06.2009
To keep things simple, the cleaning robot
uses a modular design. The trolleys that run the
top and bottom of the solar panel arrays are nearly
identical except for slight variances related to the
Operation requires attaching the trolley
mechanisms to the panels on the top and bottom,
and clamps are easily tightened by hand. The
robot remains in place, thanks to its balancing
Sensors allow the robot to see the panel
edges, so it knows how far it has traveled left
and right, maintaining a current location of
the cleaning head. This enables the robot to
optimize the necessary movements for a thorough