In this special edition of Contractor’s Corner, autonomous vegetation maintenance provider Renu Robotics discusses the growing landscaping needs of an expanding utility-scale solar market, and how remote robotic lawn care can benefit large-scale solar developers. Based in San Antonio, Texas, Renu Robotics operates in 15 states, and founder and CEO Tim Matus shares how the company will grow from there.
Below is a portion of the company’s Solar Spotlight podcast with Solar Power World, but be sure to listen to the full episode here or on your favorite podcast app.
How is the company growing and how are things going for you?
We have been growing by leaps and bounds. It’s been a great year for us. We are now out operating in about 15 states and plan to continue to expand on that. Lots of new machines are going out and growth in solar continues to be pretty expansive. Lots of vegetation problems that everyone’s running into, the same things these days, where they can’t get people out to their sites to take care of their mowing and their vegetation. It’s hard to hire people. This becomes a quick solution to solve a lot of the things that they’re running into. So, we’re taking lots of calls and we’re building machines as quickly as we can and expanding our manufacturing facilities.
With your current growth, what has Renu learned collectively from its experiences in the field and how has that translated into the robot’s performance and capabilities?
So, we have had a significant amount of experience early on understanding solar, and utility-scale solar specifically. There’s a lot of things that go on in the field that influence the way we’ve developed the system and how it works. Certainly, one of the key things is just understanding that there’s a lot of changes and things that happen dynamically out there and we use machine learning and artificial intelligence somewhat in our software to make decisions as it’s moving along, in a sense like a person, but even having more capability beyond what a normal person would do during a long day.
With Renu Robotics’ capabilities expanding, what does that mean for your product offerings like the Recharge Pod and Mission Control?
We’ll continue working on our products and making them better and better. Of course, one of the things that we’re working on already is to add tracks so that we can handle some of the wet and rougher terrain and even things like steep angles where they have to cut on ditch sides or that type of thing. We’re looking at things like sensors in the field that can be connected to our robot; we’re looking at inspection systems that can look at solar panels to determine whether they’re cracked or failed or delaminating or could fail in the future — systems that would actually be able to look at currents and voltages in certain places; we’re looking at systems that could clean the solar panels in those more dusty areas where you don’t have enough rain to keep them clean doing more autonomous maintenance.
We’ve really made and built a flexible system, an electric tractor that can go out any time and do all different types of maintenance.
With solar industry growth both worldwide and in North America, does that mean your market is expanding as well?
Our market is expanding and as we’re building more units and getting them out there, today we see about 1 million acres or so under solar panels on the utility-scale. There are some predictions out there that almost 6 million acres by 2030. But it’s not just the U.S. that’s expanding that fast. We’re getting asked to participate in operations in many other countries as well. We’re not able to do that right now, but we are looking at how we can get there as soon as possible. The need is there, the interest is there. That growth is sizable just like it is here in the U.S.
What’s next for Renu Robotics? What’s on the horizon?
Renu is working right now on growing the company, continuing to expand our manufacturing operations. It’s a lot of work and a lot of effort on that side to make sure we produce good products and quality products every day. We’re going to be looking at bigger facilities. We’ve outgrown the manufacturing capability here. Our Mission Control is growing sizably as well. We’re continuing to grow that backbone to make sure we have the capacity to expand for the next several years. Building will be getting three or four times larger in the next year.
This podcast is sponsored by Renu Robotics