Revolutionary Robot System Reduces Cost of Solar Power
QBotix, a new company bringing the power of robotics to solar energy, unveiled the QBotix Tracking System™ (QTS), a comprehensive dual-axis tracking system that employs rugged, intelligent and mobile robots to dynamically operate solar power plants and maximize energy output.
QTS provides the higher performance and energy output of dual-axis tracking at conventional single-axis tracking prices. QTS increases the energy production of ground-mounted solar power plants by up to 40 percent over existing fixed mount systems and lowers the Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) by up to 20 percent. In addition, QTS offers fast installation, has low operations and maintenance costs, and is compatible with all solar panels and mounting foundations.
SEE OTHER TOP STORIES IN THE ENERGY DIGITAL CONTENT NETWORK
This results in a better return on investment for project developers and investors, greater system reliability and performance for operators and owners, and solar energy that competes in price globally with conventional grid power for utilities and consumers. QTS is based on a new paradigm for power plant architecture and operation invented by QBotix: Solar Robotics™.
QBotix has raised $6.5 million in a Series A financing from New Enterprise Associates, Firelake Capital, Siemens Venture Capital, and DFJ JAIC. This brings the total amount of financing raised to date by the company to $7.5 million. The company is composed of solar industry veterans and robotics innovators from Silicon Valley, MIT, Caltech and Stanford.
Siemens Technology-To-Business, which helps bring new technologies to market, also announced that it has successfully finished its year-long qualification of QTS for deployment. The company deployed its first grid-connected system in October 2011, and has successfully demonstrated the ability to track both flat-plate and concentrating solar panels with high accuracy and reliability.
Solar tracking systems increase energy production by aiming solar modules toward the sun and tracking the sun as its relative position moves during the course of the day.
Conventional tracking systems tend to be expensive, unreliable, and complex to install and maintain. They are typically large structures requiring thousands of pounds of steel and concrete, and contain multiple failure prone controllers and motors to adjust their orientation.
QTS fundamentally re-invents the design of all solar tracking systems. QTS utilizes a pair of autonomous robots, one primary and one back-up, to control 300 kW of solar panels with high accuracy and reliability. The solar panels are installed on QBotix designed mounting systems that don't have any individual motors and are optimized for cost, strength, durability and installation simplicity. The robots travel on a track and adjust each mounting system to optimally face the sun in succession. Each robot replaces hundreds of individual motors and controllers found on conventional tracking systems. The embedded intelligence and data communication capabilities of each autonomous robot optimize power plant performance and enables detailed operational knowledge at an unprecedented level.
"Robots have proven themselves in extreme and diverse environments from the surface of Mars to battlefields and ocean depths. We're now deploying the innovations developed in robotics over the last several decades to manage solar power plants," said Wasiq Bokhari, CEO and founder of QBotix. "Our main focus is to deliver a compelling combination of high performance, reliability, competitive cost, and unprecedented intelligence to our customers. Regardless of the choice of solar panels, inverters, foundations or other system components, the use of QTS will dramatically lower LCOE compared to all existing mounting or tracking systems."
Itronics successfully tests manganese recovery process
Itronics - a Nevada-based emerging cleantech materials growth company that manufacturers fertilisers and produces silver - has successfully tested two proprietary processes that recover manganese, with one process recovering manganese, potassium and zinc from paste produced by processing non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. The second recovers manganese via the company’s Rock Kleen Technology.
Manganese, one of the four most important industrial metals and widely used by the steel industry, has been designated by the US Federal Government as a "critical mineral." It is a major component of non-rechargeable alkaline batteries, one of the largest battery categories sold globally.
The use of manganese in EV batteries is increasing as EV battery technology is shifting to use of more nickel and manganese in battery formulations. But according to the US Department of Interior, there is no mine production of manganese in the United States. As such, Itronics is using its Rock Kleen Technology to test metal recoverability from mine tailings obtained from a former silver mine in western Nevada that has a high manganese content.
In a statement, Itronics says that its Rock Kleen process recovers silver, manganese, zinc, copper, lead and nickel. The company says that it has calculated – based on laboratory test results – that if a Rock Kleen tailings process is put into commercial production, the former mine site would become the only primary manganese producer in the United States.
Itronics adds that it has also tested non-rechargeable alkaline battery paste recovered by a large domestic battery recycling company to determine if it could use one of its hydrometallurgical processes to solubilize the manganese, potassium, and zinc contained in the paste. This testing was successful, and Itronics was able to produce material useable in two of its fertilisers, it says.
"We believe that the chemistry of the two recovery processes would lend itself to electrochemical recovery of the manganese, zinc, and other metals. At this time electrochemical recovery has been tested for zinc and copper,” says Dr John Whitney, Itronics president.
“Itronics has been reviewing procedures for electrochemical recovery of manganese and plans to move this technology forward when it is appropriate to do so and has acquired electro-winning equipment needed to do that.
"Because of the two described proprietary technologies, Itronics is positioned to become a domestic manganese producer on a large scale to satisfy domestic demand. The actual manganese products have not yet been defined, except for use in the Company's GOLD'n GRO Multi-Nutrient Fertilisers. However, the Company believes that it will be able to produce chemical manganese products as well as electrochemical products," he adds.
Itronics’ research and development plant is located in Reno, about 40 miles west of the Tesla giga-factory. Its planned cleantech materials campus, which will be located approximately 40 miles south of the Tesla factory, would be the location where the manganese products would be produced.
Panasonic is operating one of the world's largest EV battery factories at the Tesla location. However, Tesla and other companies have announced that EV battery technology is shifting to use of nickel-manganese batteries. Itronics is positioned and located to become a Nevada-0based supplier of manganese products for battery manufacturing as its manganese recovery technologies are advanced, the company states.
A long-term objective for Itronics is to become a leading producer of high purity metals, including the U.S. critical metals manganese and tin, using the Company's breakthrough hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and electrochemical technologies. ‘Additionally, Itronics is strategically positioned with its portfolio of "Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies" to help solve the recently declared emergency need for domestic production of Critical Minerals from materials located at mine sites,’ the statement continues.
The Company's growth forecast centers upon its 10-year business plan designed to integrate its Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies and to grow annual sales from $2 million in 2019, to $113 million in 2025.