Contxto – Photovoltaic solar panels supposedly boast giving clean energy. But they have a dirty secret: they need to be cleaned with water and more often than large-scale plant managers like to admit.
So Chilean startup Inti-Tech has developed robots that clean an entire solar panel in under five minutes.
And best of all, no water is used in the process whatsoever.
I know that we’ve talked briefly about this startup before. But I found their tech to be so useful for the alternative energy industry, that it required a little more in-depth exploration.
Heavy-duty dusting for solar panels
Solar panels seem to be the poster child of alternative energy and all things eco-friendly. But perhaps something most have overlooked, myself included, is the maintenance those things require. And cleaning their surfaces is a regular task to assure optimum efficiency.
Now some of the best places for solar panels to catch sunlight are deserts. But the panels can get very dirty, especially during sandstorms.
Consequently, they need frequent tidying up and this process can take up to three months at a time. Solar panels installed in homes for consumer use don’t require much water. But large solar panel plants do.
As a result, Inti-Tech’s robots can take this task off a plant’s hands.
The robot’s frame consists of a bar, a rolling pin, and brushes to clean the surfaces. At an operator’s instruction, it glides and brushes the dust off the panel.
The system itself runs wirelessly so plant staff don’t even have to head out to give Inti-Tech’s robots orders. Plus, they run on the same solar power the panels absorb.
A busy startup draws attention
Engineering alumni Mauricio Chiong, Camilo Flores, and Camilo Contreras launched Inti-Tech in 2016.
Since then, their startup has closed funding from the Corfo—the Chilean government organization dedicated to promoting the country’s economic growth—. It also garnered equity from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, the founders’ alma mater.
It was also selected to be part of Singularity University’s year-long Global Startup Program. This prestigious accelerator initiative will connect the startup with investors and alternative energy experts in Silicon Valley and in Copenhaguen, Denmark.
More recently, Inti-Tech raised private funding from Engie Factory, Alaya Capital Partners and Albi Investments last November.
With so many going-ons, it wouldn’t be surprising if, after the end of their participation in the acceleration program in March, the startup drew in even more investments.
Especially as solar panels continue to gain popularity (despite their dirty little secret).