Ecoppia to begin production of module cleaning robots in India

To meet reported "skyrocketing demand" in India, Ecoppia will begin producing its E4 robotic module cleaners in partnership with global electronics manufacturer Sanmina. Ecoppia says that it plans to have supplied E4 robots to the Indian market with a capacity to clean 1 GW of PV capacity by 2017.

"We’ve seen demand grow across the board in 2015 – but India remains our top market and the natural choice for us to build a state-of-the-art production facility," said Eran Meller, CEO of Ecoppia, in a statement. "To do that we needed a strong partner, one that could help scale up production quickly. With Sanmina as our OEM, there’s no doubt we’re moving into a very strong market position."

Ecoppia reports that it is looking to expand its Indian team to 20 this year, to support the new manufacturing facility, and provide sales and ongoing services to the market.

OEM manufacturer Sanmina will produce the E4 cleaning robots from a new plant near the city of Chennai. Ecoppia says that the partnership will allow the company to scale quickly in order to serve the growing Indian market.

Regular module cleaning is most appropriate in dry and dusty environments, where the build up of dust and sand can result in reduced PV output. Ecoppia’s E4 robots use spinning microfiber cloth, meaning that water is not required in cleaning the modules. In environments with regular snow or rainfall, PV panel cleaning is often considered unnecessary.

While robotic cleaning appears an ideal solution in markets where labor costs may be high, questions have recently been raised about the effect robotic brushes may have on module durability and performance. In December 2015, Photovoltaik-Institut Berlin (PI Berlin) reported that its testing had revealed that some types of robotic cleaning results in damage to anti-reflection coating (ARC) and may even scratch module glass. PI Berlin noted that robotic cleaning is not suitable for all module types, with the ARC most likely to be damaged when it has not been applied through a vacuum deposition process.

PI Berlin evaluated Ecoppia’s robotic cleaning system in 2014, through accelerated testing, concluding that it is suitable for long-term use on solar modules.