Solar Panel Robotic Cleaning: Pros, Cons & Future of Dry Cleaning

Solar Panel Robotic Cleaning

Solar Panel Robotic Cleaning: Detailed Guide

The use of solar panels is one of the best ways to harness energy from the sun. Like any other electronic device, PV panels do also require regular maintenance to keep working efficiently.

With time, the layers of dust build up on the surface of the modules & as a result, their efficiency gets reduced. 

If you have installed a residential system (that usually ranges between 1 to 5 kW), then you can clean your panels manually using a wiper or a brush. However, for larger commercial systems, it is quite hard to clean all the modules manually.

In this case, you can either hire a team or use a system that can do it automatically. Undeniably, Hiring manpower is an expensive & time-consuming task. This is why the market share of solar panel cleaning robots is drastically increasing.

In this post, I am here with a detailed guide on solar panel robotic cleaning or you can say dry cleaning of PV panels.

Related: Working of Solar Modules

Let’s start by knowing what exactly is robotic cleaning!

What is Dry (Robotic) Cleaning?

Robotic cleaning or dry cleaning is a way of cleaning solar modules without using water. Solar panel cleaning robots use air pressure & dry brushes to release dirt from the surface of solar modules.

In general, a dry cleaning system is less effective compared to wet cleaning. It is so because the water involved in wet cleaning serves as a medium for dust particles to release.  

However, water is not abundantly available everywhere & the lack of water makes it difficult to clean the modules. This way, dry cleaning can be a great alternative.

Additionally, it seems quite hard to do wet cleaning of PV modules on a daily basis (as it requires a huge amount of water, manpower & capital expenditure). 

However, you can take work from a robotic system every single day. 

There are several other great benefits & challenges associated with solar panel robotic cleaning.

Let’s see a few of them!

Pros & Cons Associated with Robotic Cleaning

Like any other electronic device, a dry cleaning system also comes with several benefits & challenges. 

Let’s discuss the major pros & cons of solar panel robotic cleaning!

Pros:

✔️ The use of solar panel cleaning robots/systems can be a great way to save water – which is one of the most precious things in today’s world.

✔️ For large solar power plants, it requires highly trained man-power & a lot of capital expenditure. On the other hand, Robotic systems come up with a fixed initial cost & a little maintenance.

✔️ With robotic cleaning systems, you can clean your modules every single day – which is quite difficult in the case of manual cleaning of modules.

✔️ Since modules are cleaned on a daily basis- the overall energy production is high in case of dry-cleaning while comparing it to manual cleaning.

Cons:

Dry cleaning is less effective compared to cleaning with water. It is so because fluid like water act as a better medium for dust particles to transport away from the modules.

The initial investment in these types of robotic systems is quite high. So, it is not the best choice for a residential system.

These robotic cleaners require electricity to operate. This electricity adds up as an extra cost.

This robotic technology is quite new & hence a lot of R&D (Research & Development) still needs to be done in this sector. These machines are still in need of well-equipped technologies like artificial intelligence.

Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Solar Panel Cleaning Robot

Here are a few things that you should take into consideration before getting a solar panel cleaning system for your solar power plant:

01.  Scope of Customization

Customization is one of the most important things that you should look for in a solar panel robotic cleaning system. Here customization refers to the ability of a system to change its shape & size as per the type of the panel.

A good cleaning system is one that can be customized as per the size of solar modules. 

02. Efficiency

Here, I am not talking about the efficiency of solar panels. Efficiency here refers to the capacity or speed of a dry-cleaning system.

Higher is the number of modules a robotic system cleans in a given time – the better it is!

03. Damage & Waterproof

One thing you should keenly check for in a robotic solar cleaner is that – whether the load of the machine goes on the cells or the aluminum frame.

If the tires of the cleaning system slide on the surface of the module, then it is always better to stay away from such a system. It is so because, if the load goes directly over the cells – then chances of small micro-cracks get increased.

You should always go for a robotic cleaner in which the tires slide over the aluminum frame instead of the cells.

Additionally, make sure to check the IP67 (waterproof) rating of the cleaning system – so bad weather conditions won’t impact it.

Related: 

04. Weight 

The weight of a solar panel cleaning system should not be very high – otherwise, it will put an unnecessary burden on the plates.

Lesser is the weight of the cleaning system – the better it is!

05. Automated Signals / Alarms

Suppose, you have installed a robotic cleaning system & it suddenly stops working without giving any feedback or signal, then what will you do?

It is quite hard to operate it if it does not give fault signals & regular feedback of the operation. Thus, always make sure to go for a system that has an attached feedback section.

Future of Solar Panels Cleaning

If we compare both the cleaning methods, then dry cleaning seems to be a clear winner in regions where water is not abundantly available.  

At present, the market share of wet cleaning (around the globe) is higher compared to dry cleaning. However, with time we may see a boost in the dry cleaning sector.

Also, the cost of installing solar cleaning robots will surely go down as the development advances.

Conclusion: Should You Invest in Robotic Cleaning?

According to stats by GM Insights, the solar cleaning industry is expected to grow by more than one billion dollars by 2026 with a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 10%.

Solar Panel Cleaning Market
Source: gminsights.com

The rising installation of solar modules around the globe is the primary reason behind the expected surge in the solar cleaning industry.

If you are living in a region where there is a scarcity of water, then you should definitely go for dry cleaning. Additionally, commercial installers with an average capacity of more than 5 kW can also consider robotic cleaning.

For residential systems (less than 5kW), it is always best to go for manual cleaning, as it does not require much water & high manpower. Also, the cost of installing a robotic cleaning system is quite high & usually not preferred for smaller systems.

Do you think this guide on solar panel robotic cleaning is informative? Do let us know in the comments section – because your opinion matters!

For the latest solar energy updates, you can connect with us on Instagram @solar.funda.

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Harish Joshi

Harish is an environment enthusiast & a passionate blogger from Uttarakhand, India. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Computer Applications from G.B. Pant. University of Agriculture & Technology, Pantnagar. Along with Solar Funda, he also manages Fullonstudy (an educational blog for college students).

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