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City Students Engineer Bot to Sweep the Dust Off Solar Panels

Published: 24th March 2016 05:06 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th March 2016 05:06 AM   |  A+A-

City Students Engineer

CHENNAI: Facing problems cleaning solar panels? Now, the job can be done by robots. A team of students from Hindustan University have developed a cost-effective technology for this.

With states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Haryana making rooftop solar panels compulsory for all new buildings, the need for such technology has also taken centre stage. The four-member team — K Arun, Nanda Kishore, Akhilesh Singh and Kamadi Sree Harika — all second and third year students of Electronics and Instrumental Engineering and Mechatronics have developed this product, which is already catching the market’s attention.

Explaining its’ features during the PALS5 Innovation Challenge at IIT Madras Research Park, the team says the solar panel cleaning robot (SOPAC) is self-driven and works by attaching to the panel surface with suction cups. This is the first such product developed in India, costing `7,000 a piece.

The robot is monitored and controlled with a suitable sensor interface, which detects the end of the solar panel, and enables it to move on to the next solar panel, if the distance between the two is not more than 60 mm.

Speaking to City Express, assistant professor G Muthukumaran, who is mentoring the team, says solar panels need regular cleaning to ensure they work with optimum efficiency. “Engaging workers to clean in the scorching heat is a challenge everywhere, from households to industries,” he adds.

According to studies, India is losing 25% of its solar power for the simple reason that panels are not being cleaned on a regular basis — this means there is less light on the solar panels. This challenge will grow as more projects are built worldwide. “Our PM Narendra Modi launched an international solar alliance of over 120 countries with French president, François Hollande, at the Paris COP21 climate summit last year,” he says.

On future plans, Muthukumaran explains that the team wants to develop an extended model with a camera so that the robot can detect and reach places where dust accumulates more. “We are also working on features like automatic battery charge and path-planning. The advanced robot should be ready in another six months,” he states.

BOT BENEFITS

■ Costs Rs 7,000

■ Works wirelessly

■ Lightweight

■  Operates any tilt of up to 45 degrees

■  Can automatically walk from panel to panel

■ Weather-proof enclosure

■  Facility to automatically recharge battery

One of the judges of the innovation challenge, P Rajenthiran, assistant vice president (services), Gamesa Renewable, has offered the team an opportunity to test the product at his company’s solar farm. “The market needs such technology,” he said.



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