SunPower, a vertically integrated solar company is clearly bringing technology from science fiction films to the real world with the latest generation of its Oasis platform for solar projects with drones and robots. The company is using drones to streamline design and robotic technology to efficiently and economically maintain the systems.
SunPower already is using the third-generation of Oasis technology to design and develop roughly 700 megawatts of solar projects North America and China. By the beginning of 2017, the company said the Oasis system will be employed in the design of all its new projects.
"SunPower Oasis allows customers to generate more value from a broader selection of potential power plant sites, at an accelerated pace,” said Tom Werner, president and CEO of SunPower said. “An Oasis solar power plant may be designed 90 percent faster than the time required to design conventional solar power plants. While flat, rectangular-shaped sites are required for other trackers on the market, Oasis can take advantage of unused irregularly shaped areas and slopes up to 10 degrees to generate up to 60 percent more energy than conventional technology installed at the same site. Each additional ten acres of usable land on a site may represent 2 to 4 more megawatts of power, which can significantly impact a project's bottom line.”
The most groundbreaking feature of the new design system is Oasis GEO, which deploys drones and uses unique software to further automate and speed installation process by gathering data and generating thousands of designs for a solar power plant. Developers can screen and choose designs that optimize the production and profitability of each site.
The new design system also uses shorter and wider trackers on a modular infrastructure allowing developers to customize and utilize solar power plant locations formerly considered unsuitable for development. The designs also allow greater distance between tracker rows, allowing for additional agricultural activity on land that once would have been reserved solely for solar power production.
The use of proprietary robotic technology will enhance and economize operational tasks such as cleaning solar panels that become soiled over time, according to SunPower. With just three workers, robots can clean solar panels twice as fast as the company’s current technology while using 75 percent less water than manual cleaning methods. Robots can also perform their duties during the night in order to avoid disruption of important daytime solar producing hours.
With the introduction of the new development and design platform SunPower continues to innovate how solar projects are implemented. It’s also introduced the modular Helix platform for commercial projects and the Equinox system for rooftop solar. It’s already successfully used its earlier Oasis platform to install thousands of megawatts of power across the world, including its efforts to provide Santiago, Chile’s entire 100 stop subway system with 42 percent of its energy through solar power.Tweet