Robotics, we have shown with the Israeli solar helicopter invention to spin panels in 3D, is important in advancing solar energy goals and renewable energy at large. While gig economy companies like AirBnB and Uber have nose-dived during a global pandemic with no clear path for recovering, renewable energy projects are still a safe bet going forward, despite job loss and overall investor cautiousness. In fact this is one of the only sectors that can get us out of future messes with pandemics and global warming hot on our heels. Meet the latest Israeli company making strides in solar.
One of the biggest challenges in solar energy is keeping the solar panels clean. Solar parks in the desert face two major challenges: a lot of dust on the photovoltaic panels and not enough water to clean them. Dust can cause up to a 40% decrease in efficiency of the panels. So there is huge interest to avert this problem. Normally teams of humans come in with squeegees to clean the panels by hand.
Ecoppia founders understood there could be a better way: bring in the robotics cleaners.
Ecoppia, which we wrote about here in 2014, based in Israel announces a US $40 million strategic investment in the company by the $60 billion real estate holding company CIM Group.
Ecoppia’s robotic solutions are deployed globally in utility-scale sites and have been field-proven to keep solar panels at a year-round peak performance while minimizing operating and management costs. Despite the unique challenges of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, Ecoppia has secured over 10 gigawatts worth of energy of new projects over the last three quarters alone.
On a pilot site in Israel at a solar plant called Ketura, it would take up to five days to clean the panels manually and it was hard work that often put cleaners and panels at risk. But if they didn’t clean the panels, their ability to absorb the sun’s energy was reduced by about 35 percent. Over time, that amounts to a significant loss.
Completely self-sufficient, nearly one hundred E4 robots cleaned the plant’s panels every day after sunset. Using a sophisticated winch system, they clean 54 square feet in 30 seconds, and Ketura said they were thrilled with the results: “Ecoppia has changed the way we run the Ketura Sun field,” says Yanir Aloush, VP Operations at Arava Power which runs the site at Ketura.
The solar energy sector uniquely requires vendors to meet stringent standards of financial integrity in order to deploy in large scale projects. With the CIM investment, Ecoppia says it strengthens its balance sheet and reduces its cost of debt. This brings the company in line with expectations of its tier-1 energy clients, who include ENGIE, EDF, Fortum, Actis, Brookfield and others.
“This latest investment by CIM Group is a vote of confidence from one of the most prominent and sophisticated US investors,” said Jean Scemama, CEO of Ecoppia. “This capital infusion will allow Ecoppia to continue its geographic expansion, as more and more regions realize the benefits of shifting to robotic cleaning.”
CIM explained why they invested: “Following an extensive market analysis and due diligence, which CIM undertakes in its proven investment process, we recognized Ecoppia as the leading robotic player in the solar industry,” said Jennifer Gandin, Principal, Investments of CIM Group. “We believe that Ecoppia will continue to pioneer the automation of the solar industry with its experience and data analysis capabilities,” she added.
More on Ecoppia
With over 17GW of secured projects, Ecoppia removes dust from solar panels on a daily basis leveraging advanced machine learning and IoT capabilities. Remotely managed and controlled, the Ecoppia platform allows solar sites to maintain peak performance with minimal costs and human intervention.