Solar plants need panel cleaning systems to maintain stable energy outputs and improve reliability. Market research estimates that the solar panel cleaning market may grow at a rate of over 14% globally by 2025. It may also surpass 1,080 million US dollars by the end of the same year. At the moment, 3-5 litres of water are used per panel and in some cases 7-8 litres per panel, where panels are usually cleaned every week. So, on average, a 1 MW solar PV plant might spend more than $10,000 a year on just cleaning.
The fact that solar panel cleaning helps improve the power efficiency of the panels is one of the main reasons for its prominence. But by using drones and robots, faster and effective cleaning will help optimise performance as well as reduce labour costs. Studies have also shown that the Asia Pacific region has a large untapped potential for solar generation. This is why governments in the region are encouraging large-scale solar PV projects with subsidies and incentives. These projects have aided the demand for solar panel cleaning systems.
In India, amid growing water scarcity, robotic cleaning of solar panels is gaining traction. Since solar modules are sometimes located in dry and arid regions, developers face a big challenge when it comes to cleaning. This is because dust particles, bird droppings, and other particulate materials all lead to a decrease in energy generation. Module cleaning robots including driving robots and AI-enabled robots are the most cost-effective in such scenarios.
This technology was recently recommended by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) in their guidelines on the efficient utilization of water for cleaning utility-scale solar projects. The ministry said that project developers must minimize water wastage by using robotic cleaning technology. As project sizes increase, it is more feasible for operators to opt for automated cleaning which, in turn, will spur growth in the sector.
Domestic companies are slowly gaining traction and attracting investments and as the costs of these solutions decrease, more developers will opt for the technology. For this to happen, increased emphasis must be placed on deploying solar farms in the country which will offer lucrative growth proceeds to companies operating in the solar panel cleaning market.