[Startup Bharat] This Coimbatore-based cleantech startup is building autonomous bots to clean solar panels
In today's world, people are slowly realising the importance of sustainable living. Many individuals and organisations are switching to greener alternatives to build a healthy environment, especially solar power generation.
In fact, many reports reveal that one of the major goals of the Indian government is to achieve a target of 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022.
With this aim in sight, it is also important to ensure timely proper cleaning and servicing of the solar panels to increase their efficiency. Enters Coimbatore-based cleantech startup.
[Image Credit: Solavio Labs]
Founded in 2017 by Suraj Mohan and Prashant Goel, Solavio Labs designs and manufactures autonomous solar panel cleaning bots that clean solar panels to ensure high energy generation.
“We were inspired by the simple floor cleaning Roomba, which has made its way in several households. We came up with a solution of autonomous robots to clean solar panels faster and more efficiently. These bots are deployed with our in-house sensor algorithm to take care of obstacle, collision, and accident control,” Suraj Mohan, Co-founder, Solavio Labs, tells YourStory.
Ensuring higher efficiency
Solar panels accumulate dust and impurities over time, reducing their efficiency by up to 40 percent. This directly impacts the ROI for the solar plant owner and leads to huge losses.
“The common solutions implemented to clean solar panels today are mostly water-based. These include wipers, mops, or pressure washers, which consume one to three litres of water per solar panel,” he explains.
Apart from the wastage of water, manual methods are very expensive and dangerous for the labourers since these solar plants are either installed in high and complex roofs or remote desert locations.
Solavio’s autonomous cleaning bots can be put to use anywhere, including on the rooftop, carport, or on a large ground mount.
At present, the startup offers three cleaning bots and one motorised handheld device.
“We have commercialised four of our patented products with accessories and value-added services (VAS) such as IoT dashboard, data analytics, and machine learning for predictive cleaning. The bots are designed with an estimated lifespan of 10 years,” the co-founder adds.
He says the brushes on the bots for cleaning are designed with patented bristle technology that is non-abrasive and UV resistant.
The startup targets the solar power sector, including EPCs (engineering, procurement, and construction) and O&M (operation and maintenance) companies.
Apart from India, it is also targeting MENA countries, East Africa, Australia, and the US for business expansion.
Illustration: YS Design
Business and more
Speaking about the business model, Suraj says that apart from sales of its bots, it also offers a SaaS subscription (for IoT and data analytics) and an operating lease model.
The startup claims to have sold 70 bots in the last year. “Based on our pilot orders and sales pipeline, we expect to sell at least 1,000 bots in the following fiscal year between domestic and export markets,” he says.
Solavio’s clientele includes organisations such as Tata Power Solar, Welspun Renewable Energy, Adani Solar, and Refex in India and Dewa, Siraj Power, andfor MENA countries, among others.
The seed-stage startup has raised $450,000 from multiple HNIs, Canada’s New Brunswick Innovation Fund (NBIF), and AIC RAISE.
According to a report by Modor Intelligence, the Indian solar power market is expected to grow at over 40 percent CAGR between 2020 and 2025.
Solavia Labs competes with Noida-based Inoviea Consulting and Services, which is also involved in the solar panel cleaning segment. It provides a combination of slippery coating on the panels and compressed air to keep dust away from the solar panel, keeping them clean without manual intervention.
Speaking about future plans, the co-founder reveals that the startup is looking to raise more funds over multiple rounds to support its manufacturing, scaling, and research goals.
“We are looking to expand our customer base aggressively in India, MENA, East Africa, Australia, and the US over the next two years,” he adds.