Autonomous robot for concentrated solar power installation and maintenance

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Heliogen, a California-based developer of concentrated solar power (CSP) plants, held the first technical demonstration of its ICARUS, or Installation & Cleaning Autonomous Robot & Utility Solution.

ICARUS is a system of autonomous robots designed to clean the heliostats, which are the reflective mirrors of the CSP system. Heliostats reflect sunlight into a collection tower, where the light and heat is converted to electricity and usable thermal energy. Recently, the company partnered with Bloom Energy to produce hydrogen fuel.

(Watch: “Concentrated solar power supports hydrogen fuel production”)

Cleaning the heliostats can be expensive, labor-intensive, and due to this, historically was only done every few months, said Heliogen. Now, the ICARUS robots can continuously clean the system from soiling, keeping production levels high.

The ICARUS system uses GPS, ultrasonic rangefinders, and light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensors to operate fully autonomously.

The ICARUS system autonomously installs heliostats.
Image: Heliogen

The system can also deliver the heliostats from an assembly or inventory location to the field, and install them with accuracy up to two centimeters, said Heliogen. It can work around the clock, day or night, requiring minimal physical labor. The robots can operate in both structured and unstructured environments and have built-in obstacle and structure avoidance.

“By taking advantage of huge boosts in processing power due to the advances of Moore’s Law, AI, computation, and computer vision, Heliogen aims to make solar energy more affordable than ever before,” said Bill Gross, founder and CEO of Heliogen.

ICARUS is expected to be deployed across Heliogen’s facilities by 2023.

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