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Automation and the solar panel cleaning market through 2025

Exclusive content from Global Market Insights on the burgeoning effects of automation on the global solar panel cleaning market

The ongoing global shift towards clean energy sources is introducing new, expansive business verticals in the energy landscape, the solar panel cleaning market being one prominent example. Increasing efforts to maintain solar power output at an optimal level by solar farms is laying the foundation for the solar panel cleaning industry.

Solar farms take up copious amounts of physical space, which is why they are typically constructed in remote areas. However, this exposes the solar panels to a plethora of pollutants like dust, bird droppings, debris, anthropogenic pollution and acid rain among others, thereby creating significant demand for solar panel cleaning services.

While energy generation through solar power is one of the most widely used methods of creating electricity, for the method to be completely efficient, some environmental effects need to be addressed and eliminated.

According to the ASU Renewable Energy Center, unwanted pollutants that obstruct sun rays from hitting the solar panel can impact electricity generation significantly. In fact, pollutants like dust can reduce solar panel efficiency by approximately 50%.

This makes the solar panel cleaning market an integral part of the clean energy sector. In fact, Global Market Insights Inc. estimates that the solar panel cleaning market will surpass an annual valuation of $1200 million by 2025.

The technology

Solar panel cleaning technologies are bifurcated into two subgroups; namely dry cleaning and wet cleaning. Wet cleaning seems extremely feasible for regions that experience heavy rainfalls on an annual basis and boast of abundant water reserves. However, according to the PI Photovoltaik-Institut Berlin AG, solar panel cleaning using water is rarely considered to be an optimal solution. In a predominant number of cases, access to a sustainable water source does not exist.

Considering that solar farms are preferably installed in regions that experience uninterrupted sunlight, like deserts, the dry cleaning segment represents a large portion of the solar panel cleaning systems deployed around the world.

Automated robotic cleaning, in particular, is one of the most frequently used solar panel cleaning technologies. Introduction of several government-sponsored mandates throughout arid and extreme climate regions to restrict labour activities in high temperatures is creating a favourable business scenario for the solar panel cleaning market over the coming years.

Growing demand for automation

An inevitable part of the 21st century industrial landscape, automation is steadily creeping into the solar power sector. This trend is also making its way into the photovoltaic (PV) panel cleaning sector with many solar farms using automated robots to clean PV panels on a daily basis.

Government regulations that restrict use of labour in harsh, high-temperature conditions, the high costs associated with manual labour, and the growing scarcity of water are prompting solar power industry players toward autonomous PV panel cleaning systems.

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According to a report by DownToEarth.org, while the overall cost for autonomous cleaning does not take into account unknown variables like repairs, component replacement and services, it still offers a substantial drop in costs.

Having witnessed the potential, several industry players are increasingly making investments in research and development to develop more effective PV panel cleaning bots. In 2018, Saudi Aramco Research and Development Center tested an autonomous, silicone rubber brush equipped, robotic dry-cleaning system for solar panels.

The tests found that robotic dry-cleaning enhanced the overall performance of the PV systems by approximately 0.25% per day. It was also observed that the robotic systems did not damage the PV panels during the cleaning procedure.

The cost and time benefits they offer, and their increasing effectiveness in cleaning when compared to other conventional counterparts, are some of the most crucial factors stimulating product adoption.

Increasing consumption of clean power across industrial and utility sectors

As per Solar Power Europe, in 2017, more solar PV capacities were installed across the world than any other electricity generation technology. In fact, solar alone witnesses more new capacity installed than nuclear and fossil fuels combined.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, the global industrial sector consumes more delivered energy than other end-use sectors; using approximately 54% of the world’s total delivered energy.

In an effort to adhere to new government regulations and establish an environmentally-friendly image, numerous companies in the industrial sector are increasingly shifting towards clean energy, making them crucial contributors in the solar energy landscape.

With the shift of this significant demographic to the clean energy landscape, demand for solar panel cleaning products is anticipated to surge further at an exponential rate.

In essence, the global solar panel cleaning industry is slated to build immense momentum over the forthcoming years with regards to the game changing innovations in PV panel cleaning technologies. With the industrial sector’s shift towards clean energy and advancements in the autonomous solar panel cleaning segment brought on by industry majors, PV panel cleaning technologies are likely to gain exceptional traction in the years ahead.

Global Market Insights Inc. has a market report dedicated to global solar panel cleaning, available here.

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