MENLO PARK, CA--(Marketwire - Nov 26, 2012) - QBotix, which is the first company to use robotics for operating solar power plants, has received a $1 million development award under the SunShot Initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The award, part of the $10 million SunShot Incubator Program, will help fund the development of a new generation of robots for the QBotix Tracking System™ (QTS), which lowers the levelized cost of energy at large-scale power plants by up to 20 percent. QTS is based on a new paradigm for power plant architecture and operation invented by QBotix: Solar Robotics™.
The SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort to make solar competitive with other forms of electricity in the U.S. by the end of the decade. By reducing the cost for utility scale installations by 75 percent from 2011 levels to roughly $1 a watt -- which would correspond to roughly 6 cents per kilowatt-hour -- solar energy systems could be broadly deployed across the country.
"We are delighted to have been selected for this highly competitive award and look forward to collaborating with the agency on improving solar power plants," said Wasiq Bokhari, CEO of QBotix. "Lowering the cost of solar will boost our economic competitiveness in a number of ways, but it will require innovations across every segment in the supply chain. At QBotix, we're taking a novel approach to balance of systems by using robotics to dramatically reduce the cost of operating solar power plants."
QTS is a comprehensive dual-axis tracking system that employs rugged, and intelligent, mobile robots that aim solar modules toward the sun and adjust their position throughout the day to maximize energy output. QTS utilizes a pair of autonomous robots, one primary and one back-up, to control 300 kW of solar panels with high accuracy and reliability. Popular Science recently selected the system as one of top six innovations in its list of "Best of What's New" list for green technology for 2012.
The system allows solar power plant owners to eliminate hundreds of stationary motors as well as almost half of the steel and a substantial portion of the concrete and other foundational materials from the final design of their power plants, thereby lowering the cost and time needed to construct power plants. Solar power plants based on QTS are built with industry-standard solar panels and mounting foundations, eliminating the customized panels associated with many tracking systems. So-called balance of systems expenses like construction, racking and installation now account for 68 percent of the cost of solar installations, according to a recent report from GTM Research.
A QTS-based power plant with dual-axis tracking will generate approximately 15 percent more electricity than a power plant built with conventional single-axis trackers, but cost the same to build, giving QBotix customers dual-axis performance at single-axis pricing. A QTS-based power plant will produce up to 40 percent more electricity than a plant built with fixed-mount systems and lower the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) by up to 20 percent per kilowatt hour.
Likewise, a QTS-based plant will produce approximately the same amount of energy as one built with conventional dual-axis trackers, but cost 50 percent less.
The intelligence and communication capabilities embedded in each autonomous robot also optimize power plant performance and provide detailed operational knowledge at an unprecedented level. This results in a better return on investment for project developers and investors, greater system reliability and performance for operators and owners, and solar energy that competes in price globally with conventional grid power for utilities and consumers.
Released in August, QTS is already being deployed on commercial projects.
About QBotix. Based in Menlo Park, CA, QBotix utilizes distributed robotics to significantly lower the cost of electricity generated by solar power plants. Please see website at www.qbotix.com.