Demand for solar power is rising globally, as governments, businesses, and consumers strive to transition toward renewable energy. But for many solar companies, expansion is being hampered by supply chain issues and the rising cost of hardware. It’s expected that the US solar industry will grow 25% less than previously forecast in 2022.
The cost of shipments and components isn’t the only factor that’s squeezing margins. Around the world, solar businesses are also contending with the rising cost and shortage of construction labor. The Covid-19 pandemic drove many construction workers to early retirement – and the labor shortage is expected to worsen in 2022 as contractors struggle to attract new talent.
So how can solar companies continue to expand and build new sites fast enough to meet rising consumer and business demands? The answer lies in new technologies. Ground robots are helping to streamline all stages of solar construction; enabling faster builds and more efficient use of labor, materials, and resources
The Rise of Ground Robots for Solar Construction
Many solar companies already use drones to speed up and streamline the construction of solar farms. For example, Softbank Energy uses drone data to count holes, stockpiles, and solar panels, and to detect differences between designs and as-built reality. By spotting problems early with drone surveys, it keeps their large construction projects on track.
Of course, while drones are powerful tools for aerially tracking construction progress, they struggle to capture close-up and high-definition data on the ground. That’s where ground robots come in. Innovative solar companies are now investing in ground robots to capture data from a different perspective and further streamline the construction process.
Ground robots come in many forms, including rovers and quadrupeds. These are capable of navigating a wide range of outdoor environments and walking on uneven terrain or gravel. They’re even strong enough to carry a range of payloads including 360 cameras and thermal sensors, while withstanding harsh environmental conditions, strong winds, and high temperatures.
The Benefits of Ground Robots During Solar Construction
Accuracy is essential while building or expanding solar farms, as measurement or placement errors can result in expensive rework. Ground robots help to prevent mistakes by performing daily site inspections and capturing a close-up, digital, and visual record of progress at all stages of the build. This digital record is easy to share with contractors, subcontractors, engineers, and other stakeholders.
DroneDeploy is designed to make this process even more efficient, by allowing you to schedule ground robots to perform completely autonomous inspections. This means they can perform daily data capture of construction progress, even after all workers have gone home. This data is automatically uploaded to DroneDeploy where it is transformed into 360 Walkthroughs.
These 360 Walkthroughs provide general contractors or project managers with an easy way to showcase completed work to stakeholders anywhere in the world. They can create useful side-by-side comparisons of completed work to share with clients and stakeholders. Users can also geotag and annotate any errors in the construction process and assign these to employees to fix before the issue worsens – reducing rework down the line and saving time and costs.
And that’s not even to mention the benefits that arise from ground inspections near-completion. Viewing the underside of panels, checking out electrical connections and bearings, and performing regular maintenance checks could not be done with just aerial drone footage. With longer battery life, wireless charging, and autonomous workflows, ground robots perfectly complement solar efforts.
By complementing drones with ground robots during the construction of new solar sites, you can digitize progress tracking, improve accountability and reduce the cost of rework. This will be increasingly important as the demand for solar power continues to grow around the world.
To learn more about ground robots for construction, read our eBook "How Robotic Automation is Transforming the Construction Industry," or contact us to learn more.