This Dynamic Robot Duo Is Making Solar Power Cheap As Hell

Solar power is fantastic, sure. But while the tech behind solar panels is zooming forward, there are other problems holding it back. Problems like installation and cleaning. Fortunately robots are here to help.


A pair of robo-workers named Rover and Spot, both from Alion Energy, are working their metal asses off to make installing solar panels as painless as possible. Rover, a hulking train-car like monster with a giant arm, slowly chugs down its specialized concrete track, laying solar panels behind it. And with a little human help, it can drop panels seven times faster than if you just had the crew of humans.

Then its buddy Spot, essentially a roomba for solar panels, can slide up and down that same finished track, cleaning off the dust and grime that slowly but surely makes panels less and less efficient. Spot can offer a six percent efficiency boost for huge fields of solar arrays, and while that doesn't sound like much, it adds up to huge savings.

Between the two of these suckers, Alion Energy thinks it can get the price of installing and maintaining fields of solar panels way down, so far down that they're competitive with fossil fuels. All in all the duo of 'bots should be able to reduce installation costs by 50 to 75 percent, and make the solar outfits churn out 13 percent more power to boot. There hasn't been a tag team that powerful since Hawk and Animal retired. [The New York Times]



Question: Couldn't a fairly cheap solution, ala a windshield wiper, be used instead?

Run a water supply to the panel, every so often, spray and squeegee?

And it could be cheaper and more effective (In terms of percent of coverage) than an automotive windshield wiper because aerodynamics are mostly irrelevant... it doesn't have to deal with high-speed wind. Just run tracks along the edges, shove it from one side to the other, done.

Am I missing something?