Carrying and lifting a service robot on top of tilted solar panels … always in the perfect angle.
The patent (EP 2 559 956 B1) requires financing for additional five years maximum. It is on time for the growing solar market that is just picking up substantially.
In solar power plants, large numbers of solar panels are mounted and disposed in an array-like arrangement, usually forming long rows of solar panels. In order to maximize the yield of collected solar energy, surfaces of the solar panels are aligned and tilted towards the sun. They can also be more or less tilted over the course of a day, depending on the sun. Therefore a robot for cleaning, maintenance and inspection requires a transferring device that carries the robot automatically from one (row of) module(s) to the other and that lifts the service robot onto the solar modules. This must be an autonomous process in that the transferring device adjusts itself e.g. to the slope of the modules.
DE (Germany), EP (Europe), US (USA), CN (China), KR (Korea)
In ground-mounted large-scale photovoltaic (PV) power plants solar panels must be cleaned, maintained and inspected. The periodic cleaning of the panel surfaces is necessary in order to achieve a high level of energy production. Through periodic examination of the panels mechanical or electrical defects are detected. Those tasks can be carried out by robots that need to be carried and lifted to ensure an autonomous process.
According to SolarPower Europe (SPE) (Global Market Outlook for Solar Power 2015–2019, June 2015) global PV installations will grow between 41 GW and 60 GW in 2015. Following a market consolidation in the previous years the worldwide value of this market will probably reach the milestone of 100 billion Euro in 2015. For the coming years SPE expects the fastest PV growth to continue in China, South-East Asia, Latin America, the Middle-East, North Africa, and India. In 2014 China, Japan and USA were the three top markets. SPE forecast worldwide capacity will reach between 396 GW and 540 GW by 2019; a doubling and tripling of installed capacity within five years. In Europe solar power could grow by 80 percent by 2019. Driven by its increasing cost-competitiveness the utility scale segment (versus solar PV rooftops) – of that ground-mounted large-scale photovoltaic (PV) power plants are part - is expected to keep the higher proportion of the total market.
This patent can be easily combined with the patent families “Autonomous Cleaning and Service Device for Solar Panels” and “Cleaning Apparatus for Solar Panels”. Therefore it can make sense to spread the investment over the different campaigns. Together the five patent families cover cleaning, maintenance and inspection of solar panel arrangements. At the heart of the patent portfolio is a fully autonomous cleaning robot for ground-mounted large-scale photovoltaic (PV) power plants. It is a lightweight construction with sustainable outdoor mobility and largely unrestricted navigation and cognitive vision systems for pollution detection and cell inspection. It is able to automatically clean glass surfaces of solar modules arranged in long rows in an unrestricted way. Its application will increase the electricity output of the PV plant at lower service costs.
The patents are a result of a research project, running between 2009 and 2011, supported by the European Commission (EC)'s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). The PV SERVITOR project focused on concepts for a fully autonomous cleaning robot for ground-mounted large-scale photovoltaic (PV) power plants. Europe's largest PV companies strongly supported this small and medium-sized enterprise project as end-users and granted access to their large scale PV power plants. The project resulted in five patent families, covering key enabling technologies such as service, cleaning and cognitive vision technology.
The project has been coordinated by Manu Systems AG. Research partners are the Danish Technological Institute DTI, the Mechatronic Research Unit of Hochschule Regensburg MRU, Profactor and the Berner Fachhochschule BFH.
Project Page: pv-servitor.eu