Meet Atlas: The Robotic Solar Panel Installer

Atlas solar panel installation robot

US energy company The AES Corporation has unveiled what it says is the first-of-its-kind solar panel installation robot. Rooftop solar installers don’t need to be worried (yet).

Atlas was designed by AES through a collaboration with Calvary Robotics and other parties.

“The AI-enabled, first-of-its-kind Atlas robot automates the construction of new solar resources, enabling a safer work environment, shorter project timelines and lower overall energy costs,” said AES Senior Vice President and Chief Product Officer Chris Shelton.

AES says Atlas can perform the heavy lifting, precise placing and attachment of solar modules faster and cheaper, and has the capability to install large solar panels.

“We believe transformational solar innovations like Atlas are critical to accelerating global decarbonization at scale by transforming cost efficiencies, safety and reliability for our customers.”

For something so transformational, the announcement was very light on detail, but an also very brief video has been released showing Atlas in action:

The choice of the dubbing the robot “Atlas” was interesting given there’s another bleeding-edge tech robot by the same name; created by Boston Dynamics. Its Atlas has absolutely nothing to do with solar, but is so cool I just have to include a look at its capabilities:

I, for one, will welcome our new Atlas overlords. Given Boston Dynamics’ Atlas’s rapidly evolving dexterity and tech smarts, maybe a light-weight version of Atlas with hands may wind up installing panels on rooftops one day?

Anyway, back to AES.

AES And Ecoppia

The company is pretty keen on tinkering with solar innovations. Earlier this year AES rolled out Ecoppia robotic cleaning technology at a site in California. The fully autonomous Ecoppia T4 robots clean solar panels without the use of water – and are solar-powered.

AES And Australia’s 5B

5B is the Australian company behind Maverick; a modular, pre-fabricated solar panel and racking solution including ballast shipped in “blocks”. The company describes it as a “fully prefabricated, plug & play solar farm in a box”. 5B’s solution has rapidly evolved and these days, each Maverick array can consist of up to 90 x 540-550W solar panels. 

The Maverick system was selected as the preferred technology for the massive proposed Sun Cable solar farm project in the Northern Territory – the Australia-Asia Power Link (AAPowerLink). Here’s how the system works:

5B was ready to bring Maverick to the global market, but they needed a partner to do it. Enter The AES Corporation, which invested in the company last year. AES said at the time it will benefit from the use of Maverick across many of the projects in its expected 2 to 3 GW of annual renewables growth.

“Combining AES’ track record of introducing and scaling innovation to advance the future of energy with 5B’s transformative technology and deployment process, we’re empowering customers to meet their energy goals at a pace that was previously impossible,” stated the company.

There’s that “transform” reference again – but in 5B’s case, Maverick is already very much tried and tested and will no doubt go on to achieve even greater things.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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