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QBotix Receives $1M DoE Grant for Solar Robots

MENLO PARK, Calif., Nov. 28, 2012 — QBotix has received a $1 million development award under a government-funded initiative to develop more solar robots.

The award, part of the $10 million SunShot Incubator Program sponsored by the US Department of Energy (DoE), will help fund the development of a new generation of robots for the QBotix Tracking System (QTS), which, the company says, lowers the levelized cost of energy at large-scale power plants by up to 20 percent. The system is based on an archetype of power plant architecture and operation invented by QBotix called Solar Robotics.

The initiative is a collaborative national effort to make solar competitive with other forms of electricity in the US by the end of the decade. By reducing the cost for utility-scale installations by 75 percent from 2011 levels to roughly $1/W, solar energy systems could be broadly deployed across the country.

QTS is a comprehensive dual-axis tracking system that uses mobile robots that aim solar modules toward the sun and that adjust their positions throughout the day to maximize energy output. It uses two autonomous robots, one primary and one backup, to control 300 kW of solar panels with high accuracy and reliability.

The company said the system allows solar power plant owners to eliminate hundreds of stationary motors as well as almost half of the steel and a significant portion of the concrete and other foundational materials from the final design of their power plants, lowering the cost and time needed to construct power plants. Solar power plants based on QTS are built with industry-standard solar panels and mounting foundations, eliminating the customized panels associated with many tracking systems.

A QTS-based power plant will generate about 15 percent more electricity than a power plant built with conventional single-axis trackers, but cost the same to build, QBotix said. It also will produce about the same amount of energy as one built with conventional dual-axis trackers, but will cost 50 percent less.

The system was released in August and is being deployed on commercial projects.

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