Israel's hi-tech industry and sunny Middle Eastern climate have combined for a world-leading usage of solar panels that harness the sun's power. There's just one problem: dust.
Gritty particulates and sand can severely hamper desert solar power stations, causing solar panels to lose up to 40% of the solar energy they could potentially harvest.
The Israeli company Ecoppia has come up with an ingenious solution to the issue. Their new breakthrough is a cleaning robot that removes dirt from the panels daily, boosting their efficiency, reports Israel21c.
Human cleaners are deployed with buckets of water and squeeges every six or eight weeks, allowing a considerable level of lost energy due to dust in the interim, using lots of water and risking damage to the sensitive panels.
Ecoppia, a company founded by biotech inventors, has been up and running on Kibbutz Ketura in the Negev since last March, cleaning the 18,200 solar panels at the 4.95-megawatt Ketura Sun solar power plant.
“We’ve removed 99% of the dust on a daily basis,” says Ecoppia CEO Eran Meller. “Within a two-week period we increased efficiency rates (of Ketura Sun) by a significant figure.”
Ecoppia's cleaning robots, which feature solar power packs with a three-day charge, can be operated for an hour every evening, maximizing the efficiency of the solar panels.
Further, the robots gently brush the air above the panels to clean off the dust with air, not directly touching the panels and thereby removing the danger of breaking them.
The machines, which are self-cleaning, have another important trait making them particularly friendly on economic and natural resources - they require no water to operate.
"We are the only solution which is water-free," said Meller. "We use a unique gravitation method, which generates air flow to take out dust. Our unique microfiber elements catch microns of dust and are gentle on the panel. We make green energy even greener.”
A promotional video by Ecoppia demonstrates the robots in action: