Energy is what moves us forward. The quest for new convenient energy sources has accompanied the human species throughout its evolution, until the great breakthrough carried by the Second Industrial Revolution, with the introduction of steam machines. However, the consumption of unrenewable sources along with questionable energy policies, soon led to critical downsides: the catastrophic effects of pollution and global warming. Since asking for a step back in energy consumption is not a realistic request, renewable sources, like solar, wind, hydroelectric and geothermic, become our only choice to save our planet. In particular, photovoltaic cells can rely on a virtually infinite source of energy emitted by the Sun. Still, low efficiencies and the huge up-front to set up a solar power plant, are a huge drawback for this technology.
In 2018, COMAU developed Hypèrion, a robot capable of automatically installing photovoltaic modules in solar field, thanks to its robotic arm and advanced vision algorithms. Hypèrion can roam over the solar field carrying the solar modules on its back and is meant to be self-sufficient in every possible way. This would ideally remove the need for human intervention during the photovoltaic modules’ installation phase, a costly, slow and dangerous procedure to be taken on by humans.
However, the robot is not self-sufficient yet, since the traditional supporting structure for the solar modules is not tailored on the capabilities of Hypérion. The traditional fastening mechanism, used to secure the panels on the crossbeams still requires man labour, along with consumables (rivets, bolts, screws, …). This severely impact the advantages that the automatization could lead to. Our goal is to develop a clamping technology for solar photovoltaic modules that would lead to no human supervision, fast installation speed and low manufacturing and logistic costs, with a success rate close to 100%. After multiple brainstorming sessions and several trackers design, realized in SOLIDWORKS and tested with a FEM analysis in ANSYS, the team was able to obtain a clean, clever design for one of the main components of the tracker, the crossbeams that support the solar modules. At the same time, we realized a user manual about foundations, to guide the sizing of the ground poles that support the whole structure, as requested by COMAU.
PRINCIPAL ACADEMIC TUTOR
Prof. Stefano Mauro, Prof. of Applied Mechanics and Mechatronics at PoliTo
OTHER ACADEMIC TUTOR
Prof. Edoardo Sabbioni, Associate Professor of Mechanics at PoliMi
COMAU S.p.A, Via Rivalta, 30, 10095 Grugliasco TO
Francesco Beccarisi, Process Technologies Engineer
Giovanni Bottini, Mechanical Engineering at PoliTo
Gianmarco Curti, Energy and Nuclear Engineering at PoliTo
Gianfranco Di Domenico, Space Engineering at PoliMi
Giacomo Uffreduzzi, Space Engineering at PoliTo
Guglielmo Paternesi, Civil Engineering at PoliMi
Felice Piccolo, Space Engineering at PoliMi
Enrico Cunietti, Automation and Control Engineering at PoliMi