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26 September 2023

Robotics: who are the leaders in automatic solar tracking for the power industry? 

The global power industry experienced a 63% decline in the number of robotics-related patent applications in Q2 2023 compared with the previous quarter. The total number of robotics-related grants dropped by 47% in Q2 2023, according to GlobalData’s Patent Analytics. Notably, the number of robotics-related patent applications in the power industry was 126 in Q2 2023, versus 344 in the prior quarter. 

The power industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the global shift towards renewable energy sources, declining solar panel prices, and beneficial government policies, and growing importance of technologies such as concentrated solar power (CSP) and solar photovoltaics (PV). In the last three years alone, there have been over 656,000 patents filed and granted in the power industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Robotics in power: automatic solar tracking. 

Automatic solar tracking devices are a more advanced technology for mounting solar PV panels. The devices’ active sensors continuously monitor the sun’s position throughout the day, rotating the screen in the direction where the amount of sunlight is at its strongest and increase the performance and efficiency of the solar power plant. 

Flex is a leading patent filer in automatic solar tracking. The company provides design, engineering, manufacturing, and supply chain services, including printed circuit board (PCB) fabrication. It offers consumer devices, optical products, power supply design solutions, solar tracker and software solutions, circular economy solutions, and distribution and logistics services. Flex markets its products and services under the Farm, Infinex, MCi, NEXTracker, Sheldahl, Sonderborg Vaerktojsfabrik, and Irumold brand names. In August 2023, NEXTracker and Asteelflash/USI announced the grand opening of Asteelflash’s US manufacturing line for Nextracker. In March 2023, NEXTracker signed a volume commitment agreement with Strata Clean Energy for 810MW of solar trackers. Some other key patent filers in the automatic solar tracking space include Array Technologies, Sunfolding, and Abengoa

In terms of application diversity, Shadecraft leads the pack, while PowerLight Technologies and SolarEdge Technologies stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, CEWA Technologies held the top position followed by Siemens. To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the power industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Robotics in Power

28 February 2023

Engie selects Ecoppia to clean 181MW solar project in Chile 

French utility company Engie has partnered with Ecoppia, an Israeli company that provides robotic cleaning solutions for photovoltaic (PV) solar projects, for its Coya solar PV plant in Chile. 

Located in the Antofagasta region, the 181.25MWac/199.8MWdc solar facility is Engie’s largest project in northern Chile, which is said to be one of the world’s driest regions. 

Ecoppia will work to optimise production at the Coya solar plant and supply water-free robotic cleaning solutions for its solar panels. 

The firm said that its cloud-based platform has been designed and developed to constantly monitor and remotely manage the cleaning robots. 

When used alongside a suite of advanced, fully autonomous robots, the platform is intended to increase the performance of utility-scale solar PV sites. 

The Coya facility is the fourth project on which Engie and Ecoppia have worked together. 

Eccopia said it expects to receive $7.2m in revenue from the project over the course of its lifecycle. 

Ecoppia CEO Jean Scemama said: “South America is a fast-growing region for renewable energy, and Ecoppia is excited to play such a vital role in ensuring high energy outputs of solar sites despite the local challenges. 

“We are happy to collaborate with Engie once again, as Engie is a forward-thinking company that understands automation is a necessity for large-scale site management, as they know our solutions help independent power producers reach lower levelised costs of energy.” 

29 November 2022

The power sector could face a shortage of robotics talent 

Robotics is of growing importance across multiple industries, including the power sector. It is a crucial tool for keeping the operations of power companies functional and optimised. For example, robots allowed for the remote monitoring of power infrastructures at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Most importantly, robots address the growing hurdles presented by an ageing workforce in the power sector and are increasingly undertaking disruptive applications, such as speeding up the installation of renewable energy infrastructures and carrying out maintenance in hazardous spaces. According to GlobalData forecasts, the global robotics industry will be worth $568bn by 2030. 

Many exciting robotics use cases are emerging across the power sector, but there is still room for innovation. Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, most notably machine learning, are integral to developing intelligent industrial robots. These devices can anticipate and adapt to certain situations based on the interpretation of data derived from an array of sensors (for example, 3D cameras, ultrasound transmitters, force sensors and obstacle detectors). Power companies that invest in research and development alongside robotics education will be the first to realise the full potential of intelligent robots. 

GlobalData’s Job Analytics reveals an upward trend in robotics-related jobs in the power sector, with active jobs jumping from 12,822 in Q1 2020 to 34,255 in Q1 2022, a 167% increase. However, the jump in robotics-related jobs needs to be matched by the available talent. Many power companies already foresee a shortage of robotics experts in the coming decades. Therefore, companies that invest in robotics education to address any potential shortage will be the leaders in the sector.