Cleantech startup Skilancer Solar specializes in a centrally controlled, self-powered, intelligent robots for automatic cleaning of solar panels. The unique idea has caught up with fellow environmental enthusiasts seeking a secure tomorrow…
India’s emerging cleantech startups are playing a crucial role in strengthening the country’s energy security and lowering pollution levels. Their efforts are coming to fruition with India becoming one of the most sought-after destinations in the world for investments in environment-friendly ventures.
Making its contribution to the endeavor is Skilancer Solar, a cleantech startup, that is in the business of maximizing energy production from solar panels. “We design and manufacture automatic, self-powered, water-less Solar Module cleaners for decentralized rooftop, and utility-scale solar power plants,” explains Neeraj Kumar, Co-Founder & Director – Technology, Skilancer Solar Pvt Ltd.
Photovoltaic modules need regular cleaning to get rid of the accumulated dust for them to generate optimal electricity and also increase their efficiency and lifecycle. This need sparked Kumar’s desire to delve deeper into the subject and develop a robot for cleaning solar panels as a project in his final year at IIT-Jodhpur. It was this stint in the Cleantech industry that made him realize that his project held a massive business opportunity.
Soon after, he met Manish Das, Co-founder, Skilancer Solar, who already had 10 years of experience in Business Development. The partners recognized a major gap in the Solar industry where a considerable amount of water was getting wasted in cleaning solar panels. The solar cleaning robot designed by Kumar had the potential to address the issue. It uses artificial intelligence and moves seamlessly over the arrays of solar panels, cleaning them, and improving their generating capacity. Additionally, the robot also takes care of the need to hire and train the workforce to carry out the job.
Overcoming teething issues
It took the partners one year to develop their prototype. With product development being an expensive affair, it was the first major challenge Skilancer Solar faced, followed by the lack of opportunity to test its product; companies were skeptical about the new technology and the effect of the new cleaning machine on the panels.
However, the startup has come a long way. To date, the company, with the current team size of 35, has manufactured more than 350 robots, of which 280 are installed at sites across India, including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Rajasthan.
“At present, our portfolio includes solar panel cleaning robots for utility- and large-scale solar plants with different customizations available like the length of the robot, brush type, and connectivity features,” says Kumar.
For the financial backup, the startup has secured VC funding, which it is using to develop and enhance its technology to compete with large, cash surplus companies. “We are aggressively working towards making our robots smart and efficient using AI and ML,” he adds.
Since water is scarce in most regions where solar projects have been developed in India, Skilancer Solar’s water-free robotic cleaning systems are slated to be high in demand. The company has plans in place for that. “We are working on expanding our manufacturing facility and collaborating with manufacturing companies to make ourselves capable to cater to the high demand when it arises,” he says.
AI-powered waterless robots
Startups thrive on innovative ideas, relentlessly seeking breakthroughs. The newly launched AI-powered waterless robot is another offering from Skilancer. Kumar explains its functioning, “We have a small solar panel which is placed on the outer surface of the robot. Inside the robot are two junction boxes that contain motors, an electronic kit, a battery, and much more. The battery is connected with the solar panel, and the power is stored in the battery. The motors help in the to and fro movement of the robot, and the roller helps in wiping off the dust. With the help of sensors, the robot is capable to decide the number of times it needs to run in a day. It also senses rain and avoids cleaning at the time of rain. The robot also analyzes the battery level and never stops during the cleaning.
The startup’s current portfolio includes solar panel cleaning robots for utility- and large-scale solar plants with different customizations like the length of the robot, brush type, and connectivity features.
Covid-19 has opened up opportunities for the company. “The pandemic has made people realize the flipside of dependence on the manpower. Now companies are looking for automation and wanting to install our robotic systems in their plants. We are aggressively looking to expand our business and launch new products. In line with our plans, we have recently launched a cleaning system for small-scale residential rooftop solar setup,” shares Kumar signing off.
Source : Skilancer Solar Pvt Ltd