The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has set an ambitious goal for the adoption of renewable energy: by the year 2050, the administration wants half of the nation’s energy to be produced by solar power. While it’s true that there has been a significant increase in the deployment of utility-scale projects in the U.S. in recent years, a substantial number of industrial solar fields will need to be built, and at a much faster rate, to achieve the administration’s goals.
Contributing to the industry’s challenges, the construction of utility solar fields slowed in 2022. The most recent numbers from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) show that large-scale solar installations dropped by 31% from 2021 to 2022, which the organization attributes to widespread supply-chain issues. Despite this data, there is no doubt that solar energy is in demand. More than three million solar installations have been built in the U.S., and a third of those have been built in the past two years alone. Still, to reach net zero by 2050, BloombergNEF estimates that the industry will need to add 455 gigawatts of solar annually through 2030. To put those numbers in context, 2021 was a record-breaking year for the solar industry—but it only added 144 gigawatts.
With companies already struggling to find skilled workers to fill jobs in labor-heavy industries like construction, meeting the DOE’s goal presents a lofty challenge. The manual installation of palletized solar panel modules is physically demanding and time-consuming. Compounding the problem is that workers can suffer wear-and-tear injuries from the repetitive lifting and manipulation of heavy solar panels, limiting the workforce even more.
Getting the industry on track to meet the administration’s goals will require an innovative approach, which is why the solar industry is turning to robotics to augment the workforce. The Sarcos Robotic Solar Module Installation Solution, which is built upon the prototype being developed for our Outdoor Autonomous Manipulation of Photovoltaic Panels (O-AMPP) program with the DOE, aims to streamline the laborious process of manual photo-voltaic (PV) panel installation by delivering, detecting, lifting and placing PV modules in the field.
Earlier this year, Sarcos announced that we completed the final validation of our O-AMPP project in collaboration with project partners Mortensen, JLG Industries, Array Technologies, and Pratt Miller. The successful field testing and validation of the system paves the way for Sarcos to accelerate the commercialization of our robotic solar field construction solution, help the industry achieve its renewable energy goals, and help enhance the safety, productivity, and efficiency of workers in the field.