Ecoppia offers automated, robotic, water-free cleaning solution for large PV farms

Ecoppia, an Israeli solar startup, has introduced the Ecoppia E4, a new robot-based automatic panel cleaning system that it claims is water-free, making it one of the first such systems to be commercially deployed.

The Ecoppia E4 system is currently deployed at Ketura Sun, the first commercial solar PV farm in Israel and the first in the Middle East region. Arava Power, who developed the solar farm in partnership with industry leaders like Siemens, chose to replace their existing water-based cleaning system with the Ecoppia E4 robots for their automated cleaning operations.

The Ecoppia E4 robots (pictured above) are mounted on a frame that moves laterally along the panels while the robots, equipped with rotating brushes, soft microfiber and air blowers, move up and down the panels to clean them. Moreover, the robots are self-powered as they have their own independent solar panels. The end result is a completely automated process that cleans 99% of the dust build-up with no water. See the video below for more details:

Keeping solar panels clean is a major necessity for large PV plants because dust covered panels can decrease electricity production by up to 35% if not cleaned properly. Although manual water-based processes have been developed in the past to address this, such methods require significant manpower, time and money. Other automated, robot-based systems reduce the need for manpower and cost, but as long as the process is water based, cleaning remains a logistical challenge.

The appeal of water-free cleaning then is not just in the cost and time savings involved, but also minimal performance trade-off. For example, the former cleaning routine at Katara Sun involved manual cleaning 10 times a year and took up to five working days, during which time the field operated sub-optimally and work crews endangered sensitive equipment. Performance was also sub-optimal at other times due to dust accumulation on the panels between cleaning cycles.

In comparison, robot-based systems can charge up during the day and clean the panels at night, ensuring the PV system is always operating at maximum output.

Emphasizing the elegance of the solution, Jon Cohen, Arava Power CEO says, “We conducted a thorough worldwide search for a cleaning solution that could deal with the tough weather conditions in our solar parks. Only Ecoppia’s solution showed actual significant uplift in production, while offering an extremely appealing business model.”

Ecoppia further claims its systems deliver a full return on investment within 1.5-4 years. Combined with a short deployment time (3 months in the case of the Arava farm), a blazing operating cleaning rate (slightly more than 100 square foot per minute), and with enough battery power for 3 consecutive cleaning cycles, the Ecoppia E4 makes for a reliable, water-free cleaning solution for large PV farms.

Top Image Credit: Ecoppia

© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Nitin Nampalli

Nitin is a regular contributor to Solar Choice News with a focus on solar PV technology. He holds a Master of Engineering Science in Renewable Energy from UNSW and a Bachelor of Science degree in Microelectronic Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology, New York. He is currently a PhD candidate researching solar photovoltaics at UNSW. In addition to his studies, he has also worked extensively in solar PV research.
Nitin Nampalli