Los Angeles Business Journal

Looking to Clean Up in Solar Energy

Company hopes panel makers take shine to its scrubbing robots. By Adam Popescu Monday, May 21, 2012

The robots are coming. Not to battle for world domination – but to clean solar panels at desert generating sites.

Greenbotics’ mobile robots clean solar panels with brushes and water, and are designed to replace pressure washing, which the company estimates costs 60 cents to $1 a panel.

“We beat that significantly,” said Marc Grossman, the company’s chief executive and co-founder. He said he could cut cleaning costs in half.

The number of panels at a solar farm could range from 200,000 to 1 million, making cleaning expensive.

Greenbotics plans to rent out its robots and staff for cleaning projects. Two operators will lift the robots onto a row of panels, with each row typically having 200 panels. The robots will clean the row and return. The operators will refill them with cleaning fluid and then lift them onto the next row. The solar panels need cleaning several times a year; clean panels are more efficient.

This month, Greenbotics was awarded more than $70,000 in prize money by the Energy Department as part of a Caltech program and two UCLA programs. The company plans to use the money to file patents and expand production.

Grossman and a co-founder, Cedric Jeanty, are based in Davis. Another co-founder, Kyle Cobb, is in Santa Monica. Jeanty and Grossman previously worked together at eSolar, a Burbank solar developer, where they designed cleaning systems.

The company is working to secure its first clients and Grossman hopes it will be profitable by summer.

Greenbotics executives will travel to the White House next month to showcase the company to Dr. Steven Chu, the Energy Department secretary, as part of one of the prizes.

“We’ve realized over the course of these competitions that this idea has tremendous potential,” Cobb said. “Now we can actively invest in pursuing new customers.”