A cottage industry is growing around new technology for solar power developers to design, build and operate solar farms to help compete with fossil fuel power
At the edge of a plot of muddy farmland, a few miles down the road from the University of California at Davis, an technologist takes a few quick steps across crop rows and lets go of a three-foot drone. Within seconds, the device which weighs less than 2lbs and carries a powerful camera ascends hundreds of feet into the cold, clear, blue sky and have started to snap detailed photos of the ground far below, including a long row of large solar panels mounted on steel poles.
This flight is just a test, suggested by Kingsley Chen, the drone fleet coordinator for SunPower at the solar company research and developing center, which is under construction and about a two-hour drive northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area. The droning will enable SunPower to survey a wide region and assistance design a solar power farm that they are able fit more solar panel on a piece of land, more quickly and for lower costs than it previously could.
The test highlightings a growing employ of the latest computing technologies drones, robots, software, sensors and networks by US companies to design, build and operate solar farms . After seeing the prices of solar panels fell dramatically over the past decade, companies are looking for new ways to cut costs and compete with fossil fuel power through project design.
Cutting down the amount of land used by solar farms has additional benefits, particularly in places like California. It minimizes environmental effects, an issue that can be controversial for big projects built for utilities because they tend to spread across hundreds of acres of land in remote regions. Some of these projects have riled environmentalists, attracted lawsuits and forced solar companies, including SunPower, to commit money for land for wildlife conservation.
Solar companies and service providers are utilizing many different types of technology to optimize both the deployment of solar and the operations and maintenance of solar, tells Justin Baca, the vice president of markets and research for the solar group Solar Energy Industry Association. He adds: Its all about cutting costs.
An increase in tech investment could help to boost growth as more big solar and gust farms come online in the US and worldwide over the next few decades. The US Energy Information Administration predicts that more solar power plants will be built and provide 1.4% of the countrys energy by 2018, up from less than 1% in 2016. While solar attains up a tiny section, its among the fastest-growing sources of new electricity generation capacity in the country.
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