California-based startup QBotix has been been working to show off its monorail robot that helps boost a solar power plant’s electricity production by 15 percent, while simultaneously cutting costs by 15 percent. Despite these savings being accrued once the robot is in place, the green energy source is sometimes met by criticism because of the high costs it takes to build.
QBotix's monorail robot is currently being used at one small solar yard in Northern California. Behind a high fence in the Silicon Valley, the company's small robot attached to a monorail travels around 20 solar panels, stopping at each, extending its arm and adjusting the panel to ensure maximum electricity production. Since much of the cost of building a solar plant comes from the steel used, much of that is eliminated by not using a dual-axis system.
“The benefit we provide is that, without any cost difference, the project owners can generate 8 to 15 percent more energy compared to single-axis tracking systems and 30 to 40 percent more energy than fixed-mount systems,” Wasiq Bokhari, QBotix’s chief executive officer said. Bokhari also noted that the robots cost only a few cents a watt to operate compared to 35-45 cents required by traditional systems.
This innovation will also allow plants to be built on lands where traditional track systems can’t be installed, such as the side of a hill.