As the United States accelerates its transition from fossil fuel-based energy to renewables, the solar industry faces a pressing challenge in meeting the demand for skilled workers. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) predicts a need for 800,000 new solar workers by 2030 to achieve the nation’s decarbonization objectives. However, 44% of solar industry employers report difficulty finding qualified applicants, raising concerns about staying on track to meet climate goals.

In response to this workforce gap, solar developers are increasingly turning to autonomous robotic solutions to revolutionize solar installation, particularly at utility-scale projects. Terabase Energy and Sarcos Robotics Corp are at the forefront of this emerging trend.

Terabase Energy, the creator of the Terafab automated installation system, recently secured $25 million in funding to scale up its technology. Terafab operates as an automated “field factory,” incorporating digital twins, logistics software, a digital command center on-site, automated assembly lines, and installation rovers that work 24/7. This cutting-edge system promises to double installation productivity compared to traditional methods. Terabase Energy’s new manufacturing facility in Woodland, California, is already producing the first gigawatt Terafab assembly line, with the potential to manufacture over 10 GW of Terafabs annually. The company plans to deploy Terafab for commercial use starting in the third quarter of 2023, offering significant cost reductions and scalability for utility-scale solar projects.

Sarcos Robotics has also partnered with Blattner Company to enhance employee safety and boost efficiency in PV module installation for utility-scale solar projects. Sarcos’ proof-of-concept robotic system employs an autonomous working vehicle equipped with the Guardian XM robotic arm and an autonomous delivery vehicle. Cameras identify the locations where PV panels need to be installed, and the robotic arm autonomously lifts and positions the panels for mounting. This technology streamlines the installation process and aligns the panels with precision, aiding in the optimization of solar construction while addressing workforce shortages and safety concerns.

Both Terabase Energy’s Terafab and Sarcos Robotics’ robotic system have the potential to reshape the solar industry, revolutionizing the installation process, and driving the United States closer to its ambitious renewable energy targets. By harnessing the power of automation, the solar sector can embrace an efficient, sustainable, and scalable future, contributing significantly to the nation’s clean energy transition.

By Impact Lab