Ecoppia received $40 million investment for Solar Panels Cleaning Robots

CIM Group has made a $40 million investment in Herzliya-based Ecoppia, a provider of robots for automatic cleaning of solar panels, and became the largest shareholder in the company. Ecoppia’s VP of marketing, Anat Cohen-Segev, told Techtime that CIM’s evolving ecosystem in the solar market will drive business expantion. “They have established extensive activity in the solar market.”

Ecoppia’s robots clean the solar panels automatically using only microfiber and without the use of water. Regular cleaning is vital, as dust and dirt may dramatically reduce their power output. These autonomous robots clean the panels every night, removing about 99% of the dust that has accumulated during the day. One robot is capable of cleaning 1,200 panels a night.

Ecoppia robots have their own on-board dedicated solar module, allowing batteries to quickly charge in between operations. A cloud-based platform enables remote management via any connected device, while data arriving from smart sensors and AI platform can independently initiate cleanings, based on weather conditions and other parameters.

Founded in the early 1990s by the two Israelis, Avi Shemesh and Shaul Kuba, CIM Group currently manages assets worth of $60 billion. Its portfolio company, Sky Power from Canada, manages solar projects with a total capacity of 2,500 megawatts worldwide. Earlier this year CIM has begun developing the Westlands Solar Park, a 20,000 acres solar park in California, planned to produce 2,700 megawatts.

COVID-19 had a Positive Impact

Ecoppia collaborates with leading Energy companies such as the French Engie Group and EDF, the Indian NTPC and Adani Power, Actis Group from the UK, unEdisson/TerraForm from the US. It says that its activities have grown annually by 200% in the last 6 years. Big financial backer is crucial in the energy market: agreements demand long-term commitment, sometimes for decades, and the ecosystem prefer a strong financial soundness. Thus, CIM Group’s investment helps Ecoppia to meet the financial standards needed in the market.

Unlike many technology companies, the COVID-19 crisis had a positive impact on Ecoppia’s businesses. Cohen-Segev: “It made our advantage clearer. Due to the quarantine and social distancing, maintenance works were stopped at many solar sites, and the panels accumulated dust and dirt that damaged performance. However, in the case of our customers, cleaning works continued as usual, since the cleaning is performed by automatic robots. We have always believed in automation, and COVID-19 has accelerated this understanding among energy companies as well.”

Audi to explore Apollo Power On-vehicle Solar Sheets

Yokneam-based (north of Israel) Apollo Power has signed an MoU with Audi AG to examine the integration of Apollo’s flexible solar sheets technology into cars made by Audi or another brand of Volkswagen Group. During the first 12 months of the agreement, the technology will be evaluated and tested. Following this, the parties will develop relevant products for Hybrid/Electrical vehicles, and after achieving certain milestones, they will introduce products to be integrated in future vehicle models. Apollo Power’s stock rose by about 30% on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

Apollo Power has developed flexible solar sheet technology that can be adapted to the needs of the Automotive industry. Last year it conducted a series of experiments in collaboration with BWR, in which a 1.2-square-meter solar sheet was installed on the roof of a Kia Niro family car. According to the research company Market Study Report, the market for flexible solar sheets will grow at an annual rate of 8.7% in the next 5 years, reaching $610 million in 2024.

A solar solution for non-flat surfaces

Founded in 2014, Apollo Power is controlled by Westar Holdings (61%) and its operations are carried out through its wholly-owned subsidiary SolarPaint. Its main target markets are floating solar, automotive, and off grid applications. Thanks to their elasticity and low weight, the solar sheets can be easily deployed on top of uneven surfaces, and thus utilize structures and areas where hard and heavy panels cannot be installed. The main disadvantage of flexible solar sheets lies in their lower energy conversion efficiency compared to rigid solar panels.

Apollo Power’s technology and composition of materials are protected by undisclosed registered patents. According to the company, it has achieved 13.6% conversion efficiency – relatively high compared to competing solutions. The sheets weight 1 kg per square meter. The use of flexible sheets is particularly suitable for the electric and hybrid vehicle industry, as their light weight allows them to be positioned over the entire surface of the vehicle, including the roof and hood, and thus attain an additional energy source to increase the vehicle’s range, or to reduce the batteries’ capacity.

The company is building a semi-automatic production line commissioned from a European manufacturer specializing in machines for the solar industry has recently arrived in Israel. It is considered the first production line of its kind in Israel, and it is planned to start operating as early as in 2020. Its production output is expected to reach up to 6 MWp per year.