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Maximizing Green Energy with Solar Panel Cleaning Robot (SPCR) Motion Solutions

November 10, 2022

Given the adverse impacts of climate change, increasing carbon emissions, and other global environmental issues, the topic of sustainability has continued to gain heightened priority in the 21st century. Accordingly, investment in green energy sources, as well as the substantial increase in the demands for green energy production, have become a top agenda for many businesses, individuals, communities, and governments across the globe. Research continues to focus on evaluating green technology sources, including solar power, wind power, and geothermal power, that can minimize carbon emissions while simultaneously decreasing the overall environmental footprint.

Solar Power, Solar Panels, and Solar Panel Cleaning Robots

One of the most popular of these green energy sources is solar power. Solar power is well-suited for rural areas and areas located away from urban cities that have sunlight readily available throughout the year; this energy source is also gaining traction as a popular renewable energy source for homeowners. To ensure the solar panel system works efficiently (especially with large installations), the panels must be continuously cleared of debris. Traditional ways of panel cleaning consumed large water sources and manpower, which led to the creation of solar panel cleaning robots (SPCRs) to continuously clean the dirt and dust from the face of the panels that are exposed to sunlight. The introduction of SPCRs made solar power generation one of the green energies produced with optimized productivity.

Motion Solutions for Solar Panel Cleaning Robots

The SPCR system is complex, involving a variety of factors to ensure the right fit for the solar panel installation. There are two main types of SPCRs: farm-based and roof top-based, which are designed to operate reliably from anywhere between five to twenty-five years, which is the same as the average lifetime of solar panels. Both types involve a variety of motion solutions that involve miniature motors and gearheads, including the robot chassis, cleaning axis with cloth brushes, wheel drive carrying chassis, batteries, and various sensors and control systems. These robots operate for six to eight hours a day, with a continuous operation range of one to two hours. Operating environments tend to be extreme, with the SPCRs needing to reliably work through a wide range of temperatures, high humidity, and weather conditions like wind, rain, and hail.

The reliability of solar panel cleaning robots depends largely on selecting the right motion solution that will fulfill the unique application need. Critical application considerations consist of the ability to operate in the afore-mentioned extreme environmental conditions; longer motor working life to meet the long lifespan of the solar panels; superior efficiency levels due to battery power operation; high torque options for faster panel cleaning; and low-to-no maintenance to reduce the overall cost of ownership and prevent downtime.

In solar panel cleaning robots, there two key uses of miniature motion systems: one is the brush or cleaning unit, which is used to clean the solar panel, and the second is the wheel drive unit, which ensures the movement of robot along the solar panel. An assortment of miniature motor technologies are well-suited to powering these robots: brush DC coreless motors, brush DC iron core motors, and brushless slotless DC motors. Each of these is typically attached to gearheads, pulley drives, or another mechanism to increase the output torque, and each of the motor technologies has associated advantages and disadvantages:

  • Brush DC iron core motors are one of the most cost-effective motion solutions and are ideal for SPCRs with limited lifetime needs (around one to two years). However, these benefits may be counteracted by an early failure of the motor, leading to a high cost of replacement, higher cost of ownership for SPCR manufacturers, and a lower productivity for solar power plant owners due to downtime for maintenance and replacements.
  • Brush DC coreless motors bring significant advantages in terms of longer lifetime of around five years, reliable productivity, and a comparatively lower cost of ownership. These motors are also equipped with special bearings, commutation systems, and material systems that enable them to work in extreme conditions.
  • Brushless slotless DC (BLDC) motors are well-suited for SPCRs that require a very long lifetime, which is above five years. This motor technology has the greatest performance in all aspects of torque, speed, lifetime, and reliability. In fact, some of the most futuristic solutions of premium SPCRs are exploring the use of BLDC motors alone to drive the wheel & cleaning axes.
  • Brush DC coreless & BLDC slotless motors can also operate at high efficiencies and deliver on higher torque-speed needs, higher power-to-weight ratios, and can be customized to achieve IP65/67 ratings to protect the motor from environmental damages.
  • Gearheads offer a reliable and efficient solution to obtain the desired output torque and speed in a compact envelope. Planetary gearheads are an ideal choice to meet longer lifetime requirements while providing a high torque range, high power to weight ratio, and high power to size ratio. Compound gearheads are suitable for limited lifetimes, which provide medium torque, comparatively low power to size ratio, and have cost advantages over planetary gearheads. Keep in mind that gearheads can also be customized to achieve the desired output torque and speed for the required lifetime.

We’re proud to offer a variety of dedicated and customized motion solutions for solar panel cleaning robots that can maximize green energy output. For more details, check out our SPCR Motion Solutions or contact us directly at Contact Portescap.