They can get the job done more quickly and efficiently, while reducing the costs involved
In the near future, drones will be used in the survey and design of solar farms. This is the belief and aim of solar companies like SunPower, which is currently constructing its research and development center in the northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area. The company has already developed software for the more efficient and quicker design of solar parks. They own 10 survey drones, each weighing less than 2lbs and equipped with a powerful camera, that take detailed images of the area of interest. These images are fed into their software, where they are overlaid with Tetris-looking colored blocks, representing solar panels and inverters. The engineers try to fit as many of the blocks as possible while laying out the configuration of a power plant. “It’s like a big Tetris puzzle,” says Matt Campbell, company’s vice president of power plant products. The program takes into account many factors that an engineer might overlook, such as where transmission lines will be or how much shade will be created by the panels as they follow the sun throughout the day. Also, the use of the software and drones enables engineers to design a project 90% faster as in the past, a crew would be sent to survey the project site and gather information regarding the steepness of a slope and the vegetation of the region, explains Tom Werner, SunPower’s CEO and president. Moreover, the environmental impact of solar farms is minimized as the amount of used land is significantly reduced.
Meanwhile, an array of other tools for the design of solar parks is also being developed. HST Solar launched an application incorporating artificial intelligence last year, for optimal design, layout and wiring of large solar farms. The use of this software can lower the costs of producing solar electricity by 30%, claims Santanov Chaudhuri, co-founder of the company. Similarly, an application for designing solar panel projects on rooftops has been developed by PVComplete. The software enables any engineer to design a system using a range of solar equipment, while also taking into consideration different local requirements, such as typical weather conditions.
Drones and the latest computing technology are also used for the operation and maintenance of solar farms, as in the case of Strata Solar which surveys the more than 1 GW of solar projects after they go live. Any panel that does not produce electricity can easily be spotted. “It’s a great way to check on the overall health of the systems,” says Gabe Cantor, Strata Solar’s director of design engineering.
Source: The Guardian