Solar Field Construction

Sarcos Sapien Robotic Arm Use Case: Solar Field Construction

Mobile manipulation designed to enhance the safety and efficiency of solar field construction

Meeting the Increasing Demand for Solar Energy

The International Energy Association expects renewables to account for nearly 95% of the increase in global power capacity through 2026, with more than half consisting of solar photovoltaic (PV) panel installations1. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), annual solar installations will need to increase by 60% between 2022 and 2030 to meet the Biden administration’s climate targets of solar energy reaching 30% of U.S. electricity generation by 20302. Achieving these goals will require deploying more than 700 GW of additional solar capacity by 2030.

The Challenge

The construction of a solar farm currently requires significant manual labor, with most of the labor dedicated to the field delivery and physical installation of solar modules. To reach the administration’s long-term goals of carbon-free power generation, SEIA estimates that an anticipated workforce expansion of nearly 800,000 new workers will be required. Given the limitations of a tight labor market and a labor-intensive installation process, robotic technology is a critical force-multiplier in the global effort to increase solar power output.

The Solution

Current construction practices involve time-consuming pre-staging of palletized modules, manual installation, and post installation cleanup. The technology we are developing for our Outdoor Autonomous Manipulation of Photovoltaic Panels (O-AMPP) program with the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office aims to streamline this process into one harmonized system to deliver, detect, lift, and place PV modules in the field. O-AMPP fuses many of our core capabilities to provide an innovative solution aimed at reducing the time and cost of solar field construction while improving worker safety:

  • Detect multi-modal perception system software
  • Intellect autonomy software
  • Sapien mobile, outdoor-rated robotic arm

Advantages and Capabilities

The Sapien mobile robotic arm is optimized to support the transfer, manipulation, and placement of photovoltaic (PV) modules — ultimately enhancing the safety and efficiency of solar field construction.
By working with industry leaders, including Mortenson, Array Technologies, JLG Industries, and Pratt Miller Engineering, Sarcos is developing a system to meet the needs of the solar industry.

  • Designed to improve worker safety by reducing injuries from strenuous repetitive lifting while improving worker productivity
  • Environmentally hardened, power-efficient system can perform in challenging environmental conditions and over varying terrain
  • Intended to reduce fatigue-related jobsite errors, such as incorrect orientation or mishandling of fragile solar modules, which can significantly affect plant performance

Key Benefits

Our O-AMPP system is designed to enhance our customers’ ability to build and deploy solar fields. According to our analysis, companies that invest in the O-AMPP system at production-level pricing will recoup their investment within a period of 9-12 months, which may result in:

  • Lower-cost bids for greenfield projects
  • Ability to participate in more projects simultaneously
  • Improved construction timelines and quality
  • A safer worksite, reducing the risk of lifting and fatigue-related injuries
  1. 1) https://www.iea.org/reports/renewables-2021/executive-summary
  2. 2) https://www.seia.org/research-resources/30-2030-new-target-solar-decade