The two biggest social challenges for its twentieth century are also the largest chances — automation and climate modification. The confluence of these forces of mankind and nature intersect superbly in the alternative energy marketplace. The epitaph of fossil fuels using its dark blur burning a hole in the ozone layer is giving way to an increase of solar and wind turbines globally. Servicing these lands are fleets of robots and drones, offering better possibilities of expanding CleanTech into the most distant regions of Earth.
As 2017 comes to end, the solar industry for the very first time in ten years now has plateaued due to the proposed budget cuts by the Trump government. Solar has had quite a run with a mean yearly growth rate of over 65 percent for the past decade encouraged largely by federal subsidies. The progressive policy of the Obama government made the US a leader in alternative energy, resulting in a quarter-million new occupations. While the Federal Government currently re-embraces the antiquated allure of fossil fuels, the worldwide demand for solar continues to be climbing as infrastructure prices decline by over half, providing new opportunities without government benefits.
Prior to the renewal energy boom, most unsightly roof tiles were the the most visible image of solar. Even though Elon Musk, and many others are growing more environmentally pleasing roofing materials, the business model of house-by-house conversion was shown inefficient. Rather, the industry is focusing on “utility-scale” solar farms which are going to be linked to the national grid. Until recently, these farms have been straddled with ballooning servicing costs.
In a report released last month, major energy risk management firm DNV GL exclaimed that the alternative energy economy could benefit greatly by using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics in designing, developing, deploying and maintaining utility farms. The analysis “Making Renewables Smarter: The Benefits, Risks, And Future of Artificial Intelligence In Solar And Wind” mentioned that “fields of resource forecasting, control and predictive maintenance” are ripe for tech disruption. Elizabeth Traiger, co-author of the report, explained, “Solar and wind operators, developers, and investors need to think about how their industries can utilize it, what the consequences are about the industries in a larger sense, and what decisions those industries need to face.”
Because solar farms are often located in humid, temperate locations, one of the earliest usage cases for unmanned aircraft systems has been self-cleaning robots. Since reported from 2014, Israeli company Ecoppia developed a patented waterless panel-washing platform to maintain solar up and operating in the desert. Today, Ecoppia is cleansing 10 million panels a month. Eran Meller, Chief Executive of Ecoppia, boasts, “We’re pleased to bring the experience obtained over four decades of cleaning from numerous sites from the Middle East. Cleaning 80 million solar panels in the harshest desert conditions worldwide, we expect to continue to play a major role in this developing marketplace.”
Since Ecoppia began selling commercially, there were other entries into the unmanned care space. This past March, Exosun became the latest to offer autonomous cleaning bots. The monitor equipment manufacturer claims that robotic systems can cut manufacturing losses by 2%, claiming that a return on investment within 18 months. After their acquisition of Greenbotics at 2013, US-based SunPower also established its own mechanized cleaning platform, the Oasis, which unites cellular robots and drones.
SunPower brags that its products are ten times quicker than conventional (manual) methods using 75% less water. While SunPower and Exosun leverage their large sales footprint using their existing servicing and gear networks, Ecoppia stays the product leader. Its proprietary multi-layer alternative provides the most cost-effective and related option available on the market. Via a robust cloud network, Ecoppia can feel weather fluctuations to automatically schedule crisis cleanings. Anat Cohen Segev, Director of Marketing, explains, “Within seconds, we would detect a dust storm hitting on the website, the master control will automatically suggest an extra cleaning cycle and within a click the entire site will be cleaned.” According to Segev, the bots eliminate 99 percent of the dust around the panels.
Drone organizations are also going into the maintenance space. Upstart Aerial Power claims to have designed a “SolarBrush” quadcopter that cleans panels. The solar-powered drone professes to decrease 60 percent of a solar farm’s operational costs. Solar Brush also promises an 80 percent savings within existing solutions like Ecoppia because there are no setup costs. However, Aerial Power has to fly its merchandise from the field as it is still in development. SolarPower is selling its own drone questionnaire platform to estimate development websites and oversee field operations. Matt Campbell, Vice President of Power Plant Products for SunPower, said “A great deal of the beginning of the solar industry was concentrated on the board. Now we are looking at innovation all over the remainder of the system. That’s the reason why we’re always surveying new technology — whether it’s a robot, while it’s a drone, while it’s applications — saying, ‘How can this help us decrease the cost of solar, build projects quicker, and make them reliable? ”’
In 2008, The US Department of Energy released an ambitious proposition to have “.” Currently at thirteen years prior to the target, less than 5 percent of US energy comes from end. Developing wind farms is not novel, nevertheless to achieve 20 percent by 2030 the US needs to begin looking abroad. To put it in perspective, oceanic wind turbines could create more than 2,000 gigawatts of fresh, carbon-free energy, or twice as much power as Americans currently consume. Up to now, there’s only one wind farm working off the coast of the USA. While nearly every coastal country has proposals for foreign farms, the sector was stalled by servicing and politics hurdles in hazardous waters.
For over a decade the United Kingdom has directed the development of offshore wind turbines. In the University of Manchester, a top group of investigators was exploring a number of AI, drone and robotic technology for remote inspections. The consortium of academics estimates that these technologies can create over $2.5 billion by 2025 in only the UK alone. The global foreign market might reach $17 billion by 2020, using 80 percent of those prices from operations and maintenance.
Last month, Innovate UK awarded $1.6 million to Perceptual Robotics and VulcanUAV to integrate drones and autonomous ships into ocean inspections. All these startups follow the business model of powerful US terrestrial inspection upstarts, like SkySpecs. Launched three decades back, SkySpecs’ autonomous drones assert to decrease land-based telescope testimonials from days to minutes. Danny Ellis, SkySpecs Chief Executive, claims “Clients that could once inspect only one-third of a farm could currently do the farm in the exact same timeframe.” SkySpecs, which is arranging a sea merchandise, competes for marketshare using UK drone owner Visual Working. Last year, the British startup accomplished a herculean feat of 1000 blade reviews one day.
From the words of Paolo Brianzoni, Chief Executive of Visual Working: “We aren’t talking about what we intend to achieve in the long run — but really doing our UAV review service every day on the market. Many in the industry are utilizing appreciable quantity of time discussing and testing the best way to utilize UAV reviews in a safe and effective way. We have passed that point and possess alone at the first half 2016 scrutinized 250 turbines in the North Sea averaging then 10WTG daily, and still keeping to the “highest grade standards. ”’
This past summer, Europe achieved another clean-energy milestone with all the statement of three new offshore wind farms to the very first time without government subsidies. By bringing down the price construction, autonomous systems will be turning the tide of alternative energy irrespective of government expenditure. Three weeks before leaving office, President Barack Obama wrote in Science Journal annually that “Evidence is mounting that any financial strategy that ignores carbon pollution will impose enormous costs to the international economy and will lead to fewer jobs and less economic development over the long term.” He declared that it is time to move past common misconceptions which climate policy is at odds with business, “Rather, it can boost productivity, efficiency, and innovation.”
Reprinted by permission.