Ketura Sun Solar Farm Invaded By Robots

The Ketura Sun solar farm in Israel’s Negev Desert is the world’s first autonomously-cleaned solar power station.

Jointly owned by Siemens AG and Arava Power, the 4.95MW Ketura Sun is Israel’s and the Middle East’s first utility scale solar farm.

Subject to frequent sand storms and little rain, the facility’s solar panels were previously manually cleaned up to 9 times a year – a time intensive task that also impacted on electricity generation during the cleaning events. In between cleaning, panel efficiency would steadily decrease due to soiling. Dirt and dust accumulation on solar panel surfaces has been shown to lower production by up to 35% in severe cases.

Nowadays the panels are cleaned nightly by a fleet of nearly 100 Ecoppia E4 robots. The robots use no water, instead combining a soft microfiber cleaning system with controlled airflow that removes 99% of dust daily and keeps the panels performing optimally.

Able to operate in temperatures of up to 65C, the remotely managed robots do not draw power from external sources. Each device has a solar panel for self-charging during the day and a self-cleaning mechanism. Additionally, Ecoppia’s Eco-Hybrid technology recovers energy when the robot moves down a panel.

The robots move on polyurethane coated wheels along an aluminium frame. Each unit is powered by five electric motors – two motors driving horizontal movement, two for vertical and one for the operation of the microfiber cleaning. Cleaning is performed at a pace of 5 square metres per 30 seconds.

“Ecoppia has changed the way we run the Ketura Sun field”, says Yanir Aloush, VP Operations at Arava Power. “Less guesswork about when to clean, less downtime since there’s no need for on-site cleaning crews, less external personnel on the ground – we are very excited by the potential upgrade Ecoppia’s solution offers us”.

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