August 17, 2022
Percepto, which develops autonomous inspection through industrial robotics, has announced the successful completion of a proof-of-concept (POC) with the Electric Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) for the monitoring of a 250-acre floating solar farm, one of the largest of this type in the world.
At the size of 70 soccer fields, and located 350 meters from the nearest shoreline, the solar farm is on the Sirindhorn dam basin in Southeastern Thailand, and consists of seven sections floating on buoys. Partnering with Top Engineering Corp., a Thai drone consultancy and equipment provider, Perceptio’s AIM software and Air drone-in-a-box will enable autonomous routine inspections of panels and other equipment to ensure proper operation and detect anomalies before they become bigger issues.
The $34 million project is part of Thailand’s push to achieve carbon neutral status by 2050, with 145,000 solar panels harnessing power from the sun during the day, and converting energy from flowing water at night. The country looks to use more renewable energy sources and reduce its reliance on natural gas, the current largest source for electricity generation.
Because of the solar farm’s size and distance from land, equipment inspection and maintenance are cumbersome, said Percepto. Without drones, inspection staff would need to access the panel by boat to manually review panels, or go offshore to simply launch a drone that could provide visual inspection. In addition, inspectors face weather condition obstacles, such as extreme heat, rain, and fog. The Percepto drone-in-a-box system was the first to pass Level 5 hurricane testing at wind speeds of up to 155 mph, and is sturdy enough to handle the heat and humidity of Thailand’s tropical climate, the company said.
Percepto plans to provide regular operations and maintenance reports, map the location of the panel, and perform inspections of substations, transformers, floating fences and solar floaters that hold the panel above water. If an anomaly is detected, workers can know the exact problem, and where it is located. While one person must be in the vicinity of the panel for regulatory reasons, the inspection can be done remotely from Bangkok, which is more than 600 km away from the dam.
“We are very excited to partner with EGAT and Top Engineering Corporation on this unique and environmentally sustainable electricity project,” said Dor Abuhasira, CEO and co-founder of Percepto. “Autonomous drones are strengthening the sustainable positioning of renewable energy facilities to achieve global climate targets. With Percepto drones, solar farms such as EGAT can be consistently monitored and inspected regardless of their size or location to further unleash the potential of renewable energy sources.”
“Percepto drones will dramatically improve the consistency at which the panel provides customers with electricity, how quickly repairs are made, and the safety level of our employees,” said Chanapan Kongnam, EGAT Chief, Fuel Business Development Department. “Rather than sending out staff to inspect the panel, we will deploy inspections much more frequently than could be achieved manually. Staff are only sent out when repairs are necessary and they will know the nature of the problem and where it will be located to spend as little time on the water as possible.”
For more details on Percepto and its drone software, visit its website here.