Can robotics in PV plant maintenance develop quickly enough for the SET roadmap?
In this study we address the issue of whether the field of robotics can supply the necessary technology readiness level (TRL) growth necessary to address the EU's Strategic Energy Technology (SET) roadmap targets for maintenance cost reductions in PV plants. The SET is a stakeholder-driven roadmap which shapes EU policy on, among others, PV sector growth, including measurable targets for performance, risk management and cost containment in different categories, including aspects of maintenance such as cost of diagnostics / failure analysis and quality control, lifetime and yield over lifetime. In the European context, with relatively rigid labor markets placing an inherent premium on night-time operations, 24-hour O&M automation is likely to play a leading role in meeting these targets. Moreover, in a global context robots can offer intensive maintenance in inhospitable and remote environments, where robot teams may integrate both multi-modal sensing and repair/cleaning action. We therefore investigate different maintenance needs and related actions, their relative frequency vs. age of installation and TRL levels of robotic solutions for each of these, where applicable, along with a prognosticated timetable of TRL / market penetration increases in each category the SET roadmap over the 5-10 year horizon.