Tamil Nadu-based Next Automation has come up with a tractor-mounted hydraulic arm as a fast, effective, and water-efficient cleaning solution for PV modules in solar parks. The hydraulically operated cleaning arm, SolarTrack MK1, allows better control and ease of use and cleans in minimum cycle time with optimal water usage.
Jagathala Prathapan, founder, Next Automation, told pv magazine, “Currently, manual cleaning requires water tankers and laborers to clean panels on a routine basis. With an eight-hour working shift, it takes a month to clean a 15MW plant with six laborers and 2,25,000 liters of water. SolarTrack MK1 takes just five days to clean the entire plant with a maximum of 70,000 to 90,000 liters of water.”
The overall cleaning system contains three parts: brush, water and hydraulic system.
The water system contains a water storage tank to carry water with the tractor itself. During the cleaning operation, a sprinkler system placed near the rotating brush sprays water on the surface of the panels. The wet cleaning gives more efficient cleaning than dry cleaning methods because the sticky particles and bird droppings cannot be cleaned with the dry cleaning methods.
The hydraulic system helps control the cleaning system’s swivel mechanism, brush rotation, and cleaning height adjustment for various inclinations of panels.
“For solar park operators, dust and bird droppings on the panels are the biggest enemy as it drastically reduces the solar panels’ efficiency. Our equipment can clean bird droppings and sticky particles, which is usually not possible with conventional panel cleaning robots. Wet cleaning is possible with the water system mounted itself,” said Prathapan.
As regards ease of use, SolarTrack MK1 can easily cover the entire panel length in a single swipe. Also, unlike with conventional cleaning robots, no system changes or dismantling is required to move to the next array. The tool provides more accurate cleaning and requires no external power source or batteries as it derives the power from the tractor’s power take off (PTO) driven by customized gearbox.
SolarTrack cleaning system is externally mounted on the tractor and can be customized for various lengths of solar panels. After use, it can be folded on the right side of the carrier vehicle and safely trasported.
SolarTrack MK1 swivels up to 120 to 180 degrees. The replaceable rotating brush can be freely pivoted up to 270 degrees, helping to clean all types of inclination angles.
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