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Scrobby Solar | Keeping your solar panels clean! project video thumbnail
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€13,823 pledged of €75,000 goal
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By Stefan Hamminga
€13,823 pledged of €75,000 goal
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About this project

The Scrobby Solar is:

  • A robot to keep solar panels clean. You install it once and never look back. Unless you like to see it in action, of course!
  • Eco-friendly, using only natural rain water and a specially designed brush to gently scrub your panels clean.
  • Self-sufficient. Once installed it doesn't require any external power or water supply. Nature takes care of both power and water.
  • Easy. After installation it's just a matter of sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the show. The Scrobby Solar is yours and stays attached to your installation for its entire lifespan.
  • Safe. The best way to avoid unsafe situations on your roof is to make sure there is no reason to be there in the first place.
  • Affordable, enough so to earn its purchase price back during its lifetime.

The Scrobby Solar makes your sustainable, independent and green energy project even greener.

[NL] Een Nederlandse vertaling van deze project pagina is te openen via deze link.

Why you really want one

Besides being a cool new, sustainable, product, full of interesting technologies (did I mention you can control it using Bluetooth LE?) to analyse and play with?

Fact of life: Solar panels get dirty.

How dirty exactly? The opinions vary wildly, but findings from research, practical tests and end users indicate losses from a mere 3% per year to all the way up to 40% each year in areas near agriculture or industry.

Whichever number applies to your system, one thing is sure: Some maintenance is needed to keep your solar panels happy.

The Scrobby Solar is easy!

After its installation the Scrobby Solar requires no further action from you, you just flip the 'on' switch and go grab a coffee.

The first rainfall after installation the Scrobby will go out cleaning and use its clever array of sensors to map your solar panel installation. The next rainfall it will consult its schedule and, if needed, start to clean your solar panels again. This schedule is user changeable through an app and Bluetooth Smart. The default setting results in three full cleans per year, which is a good starting point for almost any solar panel installation.

Some questions you might have

What about self-cleaning coatings?

There are several types of these coatings being developed right now. They mainly focus on desert environments, reducing dust build-up and extending cleaning intervals. The situation with solar panels mounted on houses is very different though, rainfall and mounting angle reduce the build-up of these particles anyway. Instead there are other sources of pollution. For example bird droppings, sadly no coating can make those bounce back!

Aren't there other robots being developed?

Yes there are! The main difference being that, so far, every other robot focusses on either large scale installations or rental usage. The Scrobby is designed specifically to work best on residential installations. This is especially clear when comparing the suggested retail price of the Scrobby Solar (€ 350) to a number of other robots available now:

Why not just hire a cleaner?

Having a solar panel installation is a long term investment. So let's take a quick look at some minimum prices for cleaning solar panels and compare them to the price of the Scrobby Solar. The Scrobby graph includes a year 5 check-up.

While regular cleaning barely breaks even, the Scrobby Solar easily earns your investment back. It just makes sense.

The project

History: The start as a safety product

Having grown up in a roofing company that's older than I am, I've always had a connection with construction, worker safety and technology. My equal fascination for electronics, computers and engineering led me to work as a freelancer designer for the last 9 years. Among the many projects I worked on were safety systems for use in construction.

About two years ago, while working on a different robotics idea, something 'clicked'. I could use that technology and turn it into a robot that could clean solar panels, avoiding unsafe cleaning work on rooftops altogether. I started working on this idea part time, each time refining the basic concept, throwing away what didn't work, improving what did, spending more and more time on it.

A turning point

This project started out with a system that was almost as expensive as current systems on the market. During the many design iterations in the year after starting it became clear there was another target achievable: A product that could make sense ecologically and economically on its own, by improving the efficiency of the solar panel installations without using external resources.

The prototypes

I've been evaluating many design iterations during the development process. This resulted in a first working prototype, in December 2013.

Of course this prototype exposed many areas of improvements, but the general principle proved to work right off the bat. After this prototype the individual areas that could be improved were evaluated separately (to reduce both development costs and turnaround time).

The findings of this stage of modular evaluation stage were combined with the gathered feedback from many manufacturers and suppliers and incorporated in a new prototype. While the basic principles remained the same, every single part but the power switch got an update.

To give you an idea of the amount of testing involved: The following picture shows about one third of the parts evaluated.

The product

The current and final design of the Scrobby Solar is very similar the last prototype. It'll be slightly smaller due to more integrated electronics and slight packaging improvements. The bare 3D printed plastic will be replaced by a high quality epoxy coated plastic shell.

Colour

You can have any colour, as long as it's white!

Why? Because this results in the lowest internal temperature, making the device last longer. Which is great for everyone! At a later stage other colours will be evaluated, but right now the focus is on providing you with the best product.

Specifications and performance

  • Diameter: 240 mm (9.45")
  • Clearance height: 24 mm (0.945")
  • Total height: 67 mm (2.64")
  • Weight: 1.2 kg (2.6 lbs)
  • Battery capacity: 24 Wh
  • Wire length: more than 30 m (98 ft) per spool
  • Wire breaking load: over 24 kg (53 lbs)
  • Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy radio

Will it work on my system?

Below are the basic limits to what a single Scrobby Solar can service. On the left the system dimensions, on the right the inclination angles. In the Netherlands most houses have a 30 to 45 degree inclined roof.

Well, that's most of the demands done. Besides this the Scrobby can bridge the normal gaps between panels (less than 4 cm / 1.57") and go around larger missing sections, as long as it's tethers are mounted in the topmost corners.

The resting platform, as shown above, can be attached on either side of your installation.

The Rewards

A Scrobby Solar kit consists of:

  • One Scrobby Solar device.
  • A resting platform.
  • Mounting posts and fasteners.
  • A quick start guide.

The perks with multiple items receive the exact kit multiple times. Customised kits will come available at a later date. The settings app will be downloadable for free at the time of shipping.

What your purchase will accomplish

So far, I have been able to fund the design and development process completely on my own, but now the time has come to start with the production of the first Scrobby Solars.

With your help I can start producing and shipping retail units. Besides being the first to be able to use the Scrobby Solar you'll be part of this amazing process of building an open, innovative business that will make green energy even greener!

Open source & hardware

I'm a big technology fan and having learned a tremendous amount from existing open hard- and software. I'd like to do something back. The device itself and it's operating principles are patented to allow me to run my business, but I am going to publish as much of the software and designs as possible.

These details, along with project logs will be posted on Hackaday Projects during the campaign.

Risks and challenges

With your help I can start series production of the Scrobby Solar. There are challenges on the road, as with any product. The main challenges are related to production issues. Two ways I've prepared for this: Firstly the use of mature and high quality components throughout the design. Besides that I've chosen to work with partners with many years of experience in their respective industries.

Another challenge is distribution and scaling. Let's hope we get this problem, because it means you believe in the project as much as I do!

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge €1 or more About $1.29

    Every bit counts! Thanks for your support! You'll be updated on project progress.

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    Pledge €5 or more About $6

    Your support and you get a call or email when the Scrobby Solar is available at a dealer near you! For when you want to support the project, but can't buy a Scrobby Solar right now.
    We'll send you a message after the campaign for your contact preferences.

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    You name it! Our eternal gratitude, your name on the website and the call or email when we're shipping near you.

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    Pledge €269 or more About $348

    Early bird special, your very own Scrobby Solar kit!

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    Pledge €289 or more About $374

    Your very own Scrobby Solar kit, at a great discount!

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    Pledge €529 or more About $684

    The Early Bird Duo kit, for those with two installations or those over 10 meter wide.
    This contains two Scrobby Solar units, able to clean installations up to 20 meter wide.

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    Pledge €569 or more About $736

    The Duo kit is for those with two installations or those over 10 meter wide.
    This contains two Scrobby Solar units, able to clean installations up to 20 meter wide..

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    Pledge €789 or more About $1,020

    Early Bird Kit of three Scrobby Solar units. You can use these on three separate systems or one large system.

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    Pledge €1,049 or more About $1,357

    Early bird kit of four Scrobby Solar units! A lot of panels to clean? This is what you need.

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    Pledge €2,390 or more About $3,091

    The resale starter kit is all you need to get a head start providing more value for your customers. It comes with 10 Scrobby Solar kits.

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Funding period

- (30 days)