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Summary:

Startup QBotix has launched its better performing, more lightweight, and easier to assemble solar robot. Are robots the future of solar trackers?

QBotix

Almost a year ago, startup QBotix launched its unusual system that uses robots to tilt solar panels to face the sun as it moves across the sky throughout the day, thus maximizing the panels’ exposure to the sun’s rays. Now in timing with the large solar conference Intersolar in San Francisco on Tuesday, QBotix is showing off their next-gen solar robots, which can manage and tilt more panels than the first model, but which are smaller, lighter weight and have fewer pieces, making them easier to assemble.

QBotixQBotix’s robots, which represent an entirely new and potentially disruptive way of managing solar panels, are equipped with sensors, GPS and a wireless connection, and can continuously report back data about the panels to the solar project owner. Think about the system as a way to use robotics and IT technology to make solar panel farms more efficient.

QBotixThe conventional technology used to tilt solar panels are called trackers, and they commonly prop up the solar panel and then tilt them throughout the day. For example, Apple is using SunPower’s tracker tech for its new solar farm that will be built next to its data center in Reno, Nevada.

Trackers usually come with their own motors and electronics and can add significantly to the cost and complexity of solar projects. There’s generally two types of solar trackers, dual-axis trackers — which make finer tilts and are more expensive — and less expensive single-axis trackers.

QBotix test site in Menlo ParkQBotix said that its original robotic trackers (picture in the below photos) could perform dual-axis adjustments at the price of the same-sized single-axis trackers. The new robotic system (pictured in the above photos) — called the SolBot R-225 — can manage 340 kilowatts worth of panels, which is a 13 percent improvement of the original robotic system (SolBot R-200).

QBotix QBotix says that its robotic trackers have been deployed at five commercial scale solar farms in California, Arizona and Japan. The startup has raised $12.5 million from NEA, Firelake Capital, DFJ JAIC, and the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative.

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  1. myschizobuddy Tuesday, July 9, 2013

    can you clarify this “continuously report back data about the panels to the solar project owner.”
    what type of data are you talking about.

    1. The robot takes note of any panel that isn’t tilted to the desired angle and makes adjustments accordingly.

  2. myschizobuddy Tuesday, July 9, 2013

    also with conventional dual axis you have the inverters attached to the trackers. here the inverter isn’t. the conventional dual axis tracker are modular this looks like a monolithic system.

  3. Another company with a cool factor that is waiting to be bought out by GoogleX or something like that. They manufacture in China and that’s why they propose they will be cheaper. The Robot doesn’t do anything for the price. It will also face obstacles in a wild field.

  4. how does the robot know what is the “desired angle”? by time measurement or solar input?

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