Automation and the solar panel cleaning market through 2025
The ongoing global shift towards clean energy sources is introducing new, expansive business verticals in the energy landscape, the solar panel cleaning market being one prominent example. Increasing efforts to maintain solar power output at an optimal level by solar farms is laying the foundation for the solar panel cleaning industry.
Solar farms take up copious amounts of physical space, which is why they are typically constructed in remote areas. However, this exposes the solar panels to a plethora of pollutants like dust, bird droppings, debris, anthropogenic pollution and acid rain among others, thereby creating significant demand for solar panel cleaning services.
While energy generation through solar power is one of the most widely used methods of creating electricity, for the method to be completely efficient, some environmental effects need to be addressed and eliminated.
According to the ASU Renewable Energy Center, unwanted pollutants that obstruct sun rays from hitting the solar panel can impact electricity generation significantly. In fact, pollutants like dust can reduce solar panel efficiency by approximately 50%.
This makes the solar panel cleaning market an integral part of the clean energy sector. In fact, Global Market Insights Inc. estimates that the solar panel cleaning market will surpass an annual valuation of $1200 million by 2025.
Solar panel cleaning technologies are bifurcated into two subgroups; namely dry cleaning and wet cleaning. Wet cleaning seems extremely feasible for regions that experience heavy rainfalls on an annual basis and boast of abundant water reserves. However, according to the PI Photovoltaik-Institut Berlin AG, solar panel cleaning using water is rarely considered to be an optimal solution. In a predominant number of cases, access to a sustainable water source does not exist.
Considering that solar farms are preferably installed in regions that experience uninterrupted sunlight, like deserts, the dry cleaning segment represents a large portion of the solar panel cleaning systems deployed around the world.
Automated robotic cleaning, in particular, is one of the most frequently used solar panel cleaning technologies. Introduction of several government-sponsored mandates throughout arid and extreme climate regions to restrict labour activities in high temperatures is creating a favourable business scenario for the solar panel cleaning market over the coming years.
Growing demand for automation
An inevitable part of the 21st century industrial landscape, automation is steadily creeping into the solar power sector. This trend is also making its way into the photovoltaic (PV) panel cleaning sector with many solar farms using automated robots to clean PV panels on a daily basis.
Government regulations that restrict use of labour in harsh, high-temperature conditions, the high costs associated with manual labour, and the growing scarcity of water are prompting solar power industry players toward autonomous PV panel cleaning systems.
According to a report by DownToEarth.org, while the overall cost for autonomous cleaning does not take into account unknown variables like repairs, component replacement and services, it still offers a substantial drop in costs.
Having witnessed the potential, several industry players are increasingly making investments in research and development to develop more effective PV panel cleaning bots. In 2018, Saudi Aramco Research and Development Center tested an autonomous, silicone rubber brush equipped, robotic dry-cleaning system for solar panels.
The tests found that robotic dry-cleaning enhanced the overall performance of the PV systems by approximately 0.25% per day. It was also observed that the robotic systems did not damage the PV panels during the cleaning procedure.
The cost and time benefits they offer, and their increasing effectiveness in cleaning when compared to other conventional counterparts, are some of the most crucial factors stimulating product adoption.
Increasing consumption of clean power across industrial and utility sectors
As per Solar Power Europe, in 2017, more solar PV capacities were installed across the world than any other electricity generation technology. In fact, solar alone witnesses more new capacity installed than nuclear and fossil fuels combined.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, the global industrial sector consumes more delivered energy than other end-use sectors; using approximately 54% of the world’s total delivered energy.
In an effort to adhere to new government regulations and establish an environmentally-friendly image, numerous companies in the industrial sector are increasingly shifting towards clean energy, making them crucial contributors in the solar energy landscape.
With the shift of this significant demographic to the clean energy landscape, demand for solar panel cleaning products is anticipated to surge further at an exponential rate.
In essence, the global solar panel cleaning industry is slated to build immense momentum over the forthcoming years with regards to the game changing innovations in PV panel cleaning technologies. With the industrial sector’s shift towards clean energy and advancements in the autonomous solar panel cleaning segment brought on by industry majors, PV panel cleaning technologies are likely to gain exceptional traction in the years ahead.
Global Market Insights Inc. has a market report dedicated to global solar panel cleaning, available here.
Trafigura and Yara International explore clean ammonia usage
Reducing shipping emissions is a vital component of the fight against global climate change, yet Greenhouse Gas emissions from the global maritime sector are increasing - and at odds with the IMO's strategy to cut absolute emissions by at least 50% by 2050.
How more than 70,000 ships can decrease their reliance on carbon-based sources is one of transport's most pressing decarbonisation challenges.
Yara and Trafigura intend to collaborate on initiatives that will establish themselves in the clean ammonia value chain. Under the MoU announced today, Trafigura and Yara intend to work together in the following areas:
- The supply of clean ammonia by Yara to Trafigura Group companies
- Exploration of joint R&D initiatives for clean ammonia application as a marine fuel
- Development of new clean ammonia assets including marine fuel infrastructure and market opportunities
Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, President of Yara Clean Ammonia, said the agreement is a good example of cross-industry collaboration to develop and promote zero-emission fuel in the form of clean ammonia for the shipping industry. "Building clean ammonia value chains is critical to facilitate the transition to zero emission fuels by enabling the hydrogen economy – not least within trade and distribution where both Yara and Trafigura have leading capabilities. Demand and supply of clean ammonia need to be developed in tandem," he said.
There is a growing consensus that hydrogen-based fuels will ultimately be the shipping fuels of the future, but clear and comprehensive regulation is essential, according to Jose Maria Larocca, Executive Director and Co-Head of Oil Trading for Trafigura.
Ammonia has a number of properties that require "further investigation," according to Wartsila. "It ignites and burns poorly compared to other fuels and is toxic and corrosive, making safe handling and storage important. Burning ammonia could also lead to higher NOx emissions unless controlled either by aftertreatment or by optimising the combustion process," it notes.
Trafigura has co-sponsored the R&D of MAN Energy Solutions’ ammonia-fuelled engine for maritime vessels, has performed in-depth studies of transport fuels with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and has published a white paper on the need for a global carbon levy for shipping fuels to be introduced by International Maritime Organization.
Oslo-based Yara produces roughly 8.5 million tonnes of ammonia annually and employs a fleet of 11 ammonia carriers, including 5 fully owned ships, and owns 18 marine ammonia terminals with 580 kt of storage capacity – enabling it to produce and deliver ammonia across the globe.
It recently established a new clean ammonia unit to capture growth opportunities in emission-free fuel for shipping and power, carbon-free fertilizer and ammonia for industrial applications.