Autonomous, Sustainable Robot Cleans Solar Panels

The roaming robot uses no water and produces zero emissions, making it a clean alternative to existing options

Scarlett Evans, Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

August 8, 2023

2 Min Read
Enel's solar panel-cleaning robot in action

A renewable energy company has developed an autonomous robot designed to clean solar panels without water.

The robot, dubbed SandStorm, was designed by Enel Green Power in collaboration with Italian startup REIWA to clear solar panels of dust, dirt and sand accumulating on their surfaces and impacting performance.

Typically, these panels are cleaned using pressure washers or hydraulic brushes, though these tools entail high water usage and gas emissions. SandStorm, by contrast, consumes no water and produces zero emissions, offering a sustainable alternative to current solutions. 

“When it comes to photovoltaics, dust is the enemy,” said Enel in a press release. “This is not a trivial concept, even if it may seem so at first glance…It’s an issue that’s particularly important in desert areas, areas with low rainfall, and those characterized by the presence of very dusty soil.

“In any case, it’s something that concerns solar power everywhere, because regardless of location, cleaning the panels still involves costs, including environmental ones.”

SandStorm operates and charges autonomously, returning to a docking station after it completes its tasks. 

Enel said its robot offers advantages “across the board.”

“Robotic cleaning can take place at night, during unproductive hours, which also avoids shading the panels, which can cause electrical imbalances and damage to the panels,” according to the company. “This solution [also] promotes the training of more qualified personnel (for example, for on-site maintenance of robotic devices), leading to the creation of more specialized jobs.”

Related:Robot Designed to Accelerate Solar Energy Research

The cleaning system was first tested at Enel’s Innovation Lab at Passo Martino in Sicily and then on an industrial scale in a section of Enel’s power plant in Totana, Spain.

The company is now scaling its tech with a contract for 150 of its SandStorm robots to be deployed at two Spanish photovoltaic plants, Totana and Las Corchas.

About the Author(s)

Scarlett Evans

Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

Scarlett Evans is the assistant editor for IoT World Today, with a particular focus on robotics and smart city technologies. Scarlett has previous experience in minerals and resources with Mine Australia, Mine Technology and Power Technology. She joined Informa in April 2022.

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