It's easy to live with a few smudges on your smartphone's display, but for devices like solar panels that are completely dependent on every last drop of light making it through, cleanliness is a top priority. And when you've thousands of solar panels in a field drinking in sunlight, cleaning them all manually isn't an option. That's when you need to call in the robots, particularly Sinfonia's new cleaner that excels at squeegeeing at awkward angles.
The use of robots to clean solar panels isn't a new idea, but typically they're tethered to rails and require every panel to have their own private robo-maid — which of course can be expensive. Sinfonia's new cleaner is more like a free-roaming Roomba, able to move from panel to panel, eradicating dirt and debris wherever it roams.
Using a spinning scrub brush and squeegee combination — plus an internal reservoir of detergent — the robot can clean over 304.8m² every hour, and everything from dust to bird droppings. It can keep on working even when a solar panel is tilted up to 30 degrees, and can span gaps up to 50.8cm across allowing it to crawl from one panel to another.
Even though the robot spends its days basking in the sun, it's actually powered by an internal battery that needs to be occasionally swapped and charged. That of course allows the cleaner to run all night long, but you'd think it would at least sip from the sun's free power too. But that would probably require its own even smaller cleaner to keep its panels sparkling, and that pattern would keep going, requiring smaller and smaller solar-powered cleaners until this approach was no longer cost-effective. [Sinfonia Technology via Tech-on!]