How Do You Keep Thousands Of Solar Panels Clean? Use A Drone
Israeli startup tackles the problem from the air, instead of deploying teams of workers
Ever wondered how you’d go about cleaning tens of thousands of solar panels?
The mop and bucket is one approach. And that’s basically what teams of workers around the world use, albeit with some modifications and with the help of tractors, cranes and other heavy equipment.
But Israeli startup Solar Drone is tackling the problem from the air, with drones.
They’re programmed to fly over solar farms, hosing down each panel with a high-pressure jet of cleaning fluid, then returning to their base for a refill and to replace their batteries.
A buildup of dirt, bird droppings and other debris can decrease the solar panels’ effectiveness by 30 per cent, or as much as 80 per cent if there’s been a sandstorm.
Solar Drone has developed a drone specially designed to clean solar panels, in a partnership with another Israeli startup, Airobotics, which provides an industrial grade, multi-purpose automated drone platform.
Their drone can clean solar panels in all climatic zones, weather conditions, and even in the dark, due to its night-vision capabilities. It can also clean solar panels floating on water.
And it has a camera to check which panels need cleaning, Shmuel Yannay, Founder and CEO of Solar Drone tells NoCamels. Most panels in the USA and Europe need cleaning two or three times a year. Those in desert belts may need six cleans annually.
Sign up for our free weekly newsletterSubscribe
Yannay founded Solar Drone in 2020 as a one-stop shop for cleaning, monitoring and inspecting solar panels, all done in the air with no need for human contact or intervention.
“The solar cleaning market is estimated to reach $9 billion in the next few years, growing at the same pace as the solar panels themselves,” he says.
His company is currently undergoing a six-month paid pilot with an undisclosed party, and he says the drone could be commercialized as early as 2023.
“We are developing the next generation for the electric commercial drone that can carry up to around nine liters of water and can clean up to 1,000 panels a day,” Yannay tells NoCamels. “We will call the drone Rainmaker One.”
Solar Drone recently completed a successful pilot with Enlight Renewable Energy, a publicly-traded Israeli company that builds and operates solar and wind power facilities.
In the last decade alone, the solar industry has experienced an average annual growth rate of 33 per cent, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), and much of this growth can be attributed to the increasing number of solar farms globally.