California-based Alion Energy has unveiled a pair of robotic installation and cleaning technologies for utility-scale solar projects dubbed ROVER and SPOT. Together, the company says the construction systems will enable fast construction and reduced engineering, procurement and construction costs for PV installations.
Alion Energy's concept is to use extruded concrete rails to replace metal posts, racks and cable trenches. Adhesives take the place of bolts and clips. The ROVER installation vehicle then works with the concrete rail system to carry and mount panels. The company says the new installation process eliminates low-skilled tasks, including bolt-tightening, ditch-digging and hauling heavy glass over uneven ground.
The process retains or introduces high-skill tasks, including electrical work, concrete production, machine and robotics operations. The company says local concrete suppliers can be tapped instead of shipping metal poles and racks from remote sources.
Once installed, the SPOT robotic cleaning system performs automated, programmableÂ routines to wash panels at any interval and can be activated from a computer, tablet or smartphone. Alion Energy says SPOT can also manage overgrown vegetation by equipping the units with customized shears.
‘Through using robotic installation and cleaning technologies, we've eliminated flaws that plague the installation process," says Alion Energy CEO Mark Kingsley." Now, we can build plants that are not only the most cost-effective solution within the solar mix, but have a road map to deliver solar electricity at costs that can compete with any generation source.’
Alion Energy says its robotic technologies and construction practices can work with most photovoltaic and thin-film panels. The company is positioning its non-penetrating, concrete rail system and adhesives for brownfields and landfills where soil should not be penetrated, damp environments that can corrode metal and high-wind environments.