Arizona energy technology company Erthos, which makes Earth Mount Solar PV, a mounting system that attaches solar panels flat to the ground, has signed an agreement with renewable energy developer Industrial Sun for a 100+ megawatt (MW) solar project in Texas. It will be the only utility-scale solar farm installed flat on the ground to date.
Erthos writes that “the project has an expected interconnection capacity of 100 MWac, and Industrial Solar is looking to use all of this,” as the exact size of the solar farm has not yet been disclosed.
Industrial Solar faced the challenge of land constraints for this particular project, and that’s where Earth Mount Solar PV came into play. Conventional solar mounting technologies typically require more than five acres of land for each megawatt of capacity. But Earth Mount Solar PV only needs less than 2.5 acres for each megawatt of capacity. Thus, according to Erthos, its flat-mount technique allows solar farms to achieve energy density twice that of conventional utility-scale solar farms.
Erthos claims that its flat-mount solar farm can be built in half the time at half the cost of conventional mounting systems. It also says it uses 70% less cable and needs 70% less trenching, and its system is hurricane-proof.
In September 2021, PV Magazine Australia explained how Earth Mount Solar PV works:
The “ErthCompatible” specification licensed by Erthos calls for the use of IP68 glass-to-glass modules. Module vendors have mostly used duplex modules to meet this requirement. Another feature of the specification is the use of an aircraft cable that runs through the sides of the module to prevent both up, down and side-to-side movement. The safe and flatness of the panels allows the use of another Erthos innovation: the autonomous cleaning robot. A robot or a fleet of robots works every night, and a single robot can clean up to 2 MW of energy every day.
Educational site Solar Tech Advisor explains what IP68 solar panels are:
The highest rating a solar panel can achieve for waterproofing is IP68. This price means that the product is dustproof and can stay in water for a long time. IP68 rated solar panels can be used in areas with high water pressure such as permanent underwater solar applications.
Erthos says its robots take care of dirt and bird droppings. The company’s CEO, Jim Tyler, told PV Magazine Australia:
The estimated cost of cleaning a tracer unit once is about 50 cents per kW. We clean our solar plant for 50 cents per kW for a year.
He also addressed concerns about high temperatures in the same interview:
I did a fatal flaw analysis on the idea. The only fatal flaw that bothered me personally was the temperature. So, after proving the temperature readings of the module’s maximum cell temperature, I was satisfied. I happen to live in Phoenix, one of the hottest places on the planet. When I ran our first plant in 2019, it reached 118 degrees (47.8 C) outside. And I’m pretty sure the module cell temperatures don’t even come close to the maximum cell temperature. I said: Here is the answer.
In March 2022, Erthos closed a $17.5 million Series B funding round led by Capricorn Investment Group, which has also invested in Tesla and SpaceX.
What do you think about installing solar farms flat on the ground? Let us know in the comments below.
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