PV asset managers, O&M Service Providers and Project Owners Speak: Their Perspective Clarifies What to Expect in Adoption automatic cleaning In the near future. The results also provide new insights into how insiders feel about current market offerings and highlight the factors that really matter in the process of adopting solar robotic cleaning.
Utility scale processing
Industry insiders clearly understand that cleaning up utility-scale solar sites is only sustainable automation and that its application is not so much “if” as “when”. It appears that many large-scale solar sites today are at some point in adopting automation, either full or partial.
Additionally, one of the most important considerations for choosing an automated cleaning solution is its ability to efficiently clean thousands of units. About 25% of survey respondents cited the ability to clean a large number of units as one of the top three features they expect from an automated cleaning system. With solar site capabilities of hundreds and even thousands of megawattsCleaning units are no longer sustainable with manual labour, either physically or financially. Without automation, asset owners are literally – and figuratively – leaving their boards in the dust.
uneven Desert terrain, site developers must customize structures to meet unique combinations. When optimizing a site with automated cleaning, it should be using technology that does not jeopardize the integrity of the structure. One of the main factors site owners and managers look for is compatibility with a variety of unit types and trackers while also overcoming sloping terrain and challenging land structures. The ability to overcome challenging structures and sloping terrain was one of the most important technical requirements mentioned by survey respondents, with over 62% rating it as one of the top three concerns regarding automated cleaning technology.
“It has taken Ecoppia a decade of experience, cleaning more than 7 billion units, to create a variety of powerful robotic solutions to work in various terrains and unit layouts, and we analyze tens of thousands of daily operations of robots in different environments and conditions,” says Jan Schama, CEO. For Ecoppia. “This allows us to customize our new features and developments to the different site needs of customers. We are proud to offer hybrid solutions for sites with a variety of row lengths, structures and terrain – like our latest project with Azure power in India. Our teams continue to develop new features to meet O&M’s ever-changing needs and the increasing complexity of site design.”
Safety and reliability
Survey results indicate that quality of cleaning comes first in the minds when it comes to robotics, with 65% of respondents describing it as one of the most important factors influencing choosing robots. product reliability; Price, Warranty, and Service were ranked among the top three technical characteristics that developers consider when choosing cleaning automation, making up 54%, 47% and 44% of responses, respectively. Given the long life cycle of solar projects, lasting up to 25 years, it is clear that long-term safety is of paramount importance.
With manual cleaning, the solar module can only be cleaned a few times a year, therefore, there are big risks such as damage to the photovoltaic panels anti-reflective coating Due to brush cleaning, which reduces power output. The use of automated cleaning reduces the impact of unexpected factors such as dust storms or heavy pollutionby cleaning site slabs daily rather than reducing the frequency of cleaning allowed by manual operations.
Likewise, the cleaning bots themselves must be highly reliable because the robotic cleaning application aims to enhance productivity. Over 50% of survey respondents cited safety as one of the top three technical characteristics they expected for a cleaning solution.
Safety also applies to the manufacture of automated cleaning systems themselves. Service providers need to include comprehensive quality assurance and testing temperature tolerancewind resistance and UV resistant To verify that quality is included at all times in the automated manufacturing process. With robotic cleaning itself, there are safety considerations and robots should not damage the units, even when invisible damage, such as the unit’s coating, is likely.
The thinking about switching to robotics also includes a shift from viewing cleaning as a customized service, to entering into a long-term partnership with a provider that will not only provide equipment but also maintenance services for the life of the PV project. Evidence of this, is that 44% of respondents chose product and service guarantees over the life of their automated cleaning system as one of the top three factors when choosing a vendor.
However, the majority of respondents who did not use robots considered cleaning as a service, realizing that it facilitates optimal production. Therefore, investing in automated cleaning is essentially adding other assets for operation and maintenance to the site. Assurance of solution quality requires more than just trust and certification with reputable bodies that goes a long way to verifying that the robotic solution under consideration is equipped with high-quality, durable parts that are built for extreme weather conditions and longevity.
LCOE on initial cost
The cost of automated cleaning is a major concern. However, the importance of cost waned among respondents who had experience with automation and thus developed an appreciation for its value. About 47% of survey respondents who did not publish automated cleaning cited price as their biggest limitation. In addition, these respondents also identified price among the most important factors when choosing a service provider. Once solar site managers implement the robots, the value goes up and down Balanced Energy Cost (LCOE) that you bring into their day-to-day operations is likely to replace their cost concerns.
The dynamic of value over cost, among those with experience in automated cleaning, has been demonstrated in survey results in other ways. For those who have already used robotic cleaning solutions, cost has not been a major concern. When asked about the top three influencing factors when choosing robots, price ranked sixth out of eight choices, ranking below cleaning quality, product reliability, warranty and service throughout the life of the project, certifications by unit providers, and presence of a local team to provide operation and maintenance .
It appears that for companies currently using manual cleaning solutions, any concerns about their current cleaning strategy are mostly related to the pricing of services, making up 21% of their responses. Their other concerns largely considered the administrative expenses that automated cleaning would require, and ensuring that the cleaning quality was high. These two were named as other major defects, as they accounted for 20% and 17% of the responses, respectively.
According to Scemama, the risk of damage from low-cost, low-quality automated cleaning must also be considered. “There are solar projects where low-cost automated solutions were installed and had to be removed due to poor performance, high maintenance costs, or even damage to the units,” he said. “Our robots are designed to provide continuous, reliable cleaning for 25 years, as well as warranty and service for the life of the project.”
A price-focused mindset hampers the ability to see the lifetime savings that automated cleaning can offer and can also cause unit damage or disrupt operating and maintenance schedules due to failure.
You need a reliable partner
Capital expenditure (capex) may be one thing on developers’ minds when it comes to adding robots to a solar site, but operating expenditures (opex) are an equally important factor, and survey data suggest the industry understands that. When asked about the preferred business model for automated cleaning, nearly half chose a combined capex-opex model, while more than 25% indicated that leasing was a desirable model.
Having a trusted partner gives a complete understanding of the project expenses and increases the efficiency of the project. This is because operation and maintenance is no longer blinded by variable and customized maintenance costs.
But not only does finding a reliable partner that can make bots viable for projects – it also depends on the commitment and enthusiasm of operations, maintenance and asset managers. Asset managers and O&M providers were seen as the main drivers of implementation, as indicated by 56% of the responses, while 46% of those surveyed who had no automation believed their implementation should be the responsibility of management.
The real drivers of automation seem to be the people on the ground who have the real power to drive automated implementation.
The Photoelectric magazine/ Scan Ecoppia
- The exploratory study Consists of 23 questions to explore aspects of unit cleaning for respondents who already deploy automated cleaning and those who do not.
- The questions covered the technical and commercial aspects of automated cleaning, operation and maintenance of the PV project
- The survey was conducted between May and July 2022 and was completed by hundreds of respondents from all over the world
- It was first launched in Photoelectric magazine Webinar April 2022
The aim of this first-of-its-kind survey was to better understand the expectations and needs of the solar market in relation to automated cleaning, which in itself represents a fundamental change in the way operation and maintenance is conducted at large scale solar sites.
In a glance
The robots selected for the PV project are important and there is an understanding among the industry that safety, quality and reliability are the most important factors. Operation and maintenance teams are interested in finding robotic cleaning systems that work for their unique structure and geography and are looking for a partner who can adapt to their individual site needs.
Through the survey, an important highlight was that cost is not the only factor in choosing a robotic cleaning partner. However, the expense is an obstacle that must be overcome, as it prevents asset owners and managers from reaping the benefits that automated cleaning can ultimately bring in reducing a site’s LCOE. Finally, the capital expenditure model impedes progress and limits the ability of asset managers to keep pace with the changing demands in solar energy innovation, which is inevitable in projects lasting up to 25 years.
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