Design and Development of an Automatic, Robotized and Portable Cleaning System for Solar Photovoltaic Plants

A novel product “Autonomous Cleaning System/ robotized cleaning system” has been developed by Alternate Energy Research and Innovation Lab (AERIL) under the Higher Education Commission (HEC) Technology Development Fund (TDF) funding which is intended as the efficient cleaning alternative for solar PV systems and plants. Currently the process of cleaning is executed via manual means, engaging extensive labour and wastage of precious water resource. The autonomous cleaning system will help in the periodic maintenance of the installed solar system with no extra labour cost. The water scarcity especially in desert areas is another issue. The main concern of the product development is to provide an autonomous mechanism in cost effective manner to avoid any permanent damage to PV panels such as glass cracking, and hence contribute in achieving the expected generation.Although there are various solar PV installations, now happening all over Pakistan along with the operational large-scale solar power plant in Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park, Bahawalpur. In Pakistan, dust problem is very common which directly affect the PV energy production because dust layers reduce the generation up to 30% in a week or two. With increased plant scale, the fraction of maintenance costs for the system cleaning work is comparatively increased too. The dry and dusty climate such as Bahawalpur area specifically requires frequent cleaning of the plant for energy generation. Current practice of cleaning PV modules consumes large volume of water and also requires labour. As manual approach reduces the frequency of cleaning and so energy yield is affected.Other than large scale PV projects, most residential and commercial installations make use of manual cleaning which is dangerous to perform as ladders and right materials are required and should be done by professionals to avoid any future problems. Furthermore, the effect of manual cleaning is not much visible if not done on regular basis, and frequent cleaning is much more expensive. Other methods or even labour force does utilize huge amount of water resource and the scarcity of water resources is implying to change our thinking and save this precious resource. The average labor cost of cleaning a 1kWp solar system is about ~10 to 13 USD per month and it varies; it is a huge amount when needed to be done on regular basis. About 20-liter water may be wasted for cleaning of a 1kW solar power system. The automatic cleaning system will provide an effective way by mitigating the damages that could be done by laborers in manual cleaning. It provides the best solution to large solar power plants and industries with the better cleaning results and water consumption reduction to ~2 liters per kW as compared to 20 liters in manual operation.