QBotix’ WALL-E Goes to Work for Cheaper Solar Power | Ideas & Innovations | Smithsonian Magazine

4 Sep

qbotix

QBotix robots adjust solar panels for maximum sun exposure—making solar power cheaper and more efficient. (Courtesy of QBotix)

 

A shiny silver robot zips along a track at a county jail in Dublin, California, and stops beside a set of solar panels propped up by a giant arm. The robot latches onto the base of the arm and turns it slowly, tilting the face of the panels like flowers to the sun. By angling the solar panels just so, the robot helps the panels catch more rays and produce more energy.

This robot, about the size of a microwave oven, is the brainchild of QBotix, a three-year-old company based in Silicon Valley that unveiled its creation last year. While tilting solar panels to track the sun’s movement isn’t a new concept, QBotix has come up with a novel approach that makes use of advances in robotics technology made over the past two decades. If the idea proves successful, it could lead to cheaper renewable energy and more efficient use of land for big solar installations.

Such innovations are important if solar electricity is to achieve costs comparable to power generated by fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. And in a time when many solar plants are being built or planned for remote desert regions, where sunlight and broad swaths of undeveloped land are abundant, robotics offer a way to minimize the need for on-site workers to clean, repair and monitor solar panels and tracking equipment.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/ideas-innovations/WALL-E-Goes-to-Work-for-Cheaper-Solar-Power-221817531.html#ixzz2dvHq0X2J
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via WALL-E Goes to Work for Cheaper Solar Power | Ideas & Innovations | Smithsonian Magazine.

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