Erthos, an Arizona energy tech company that makes Earth Mount Solar PV, a mounting system that secures solar panels flat to the ground, signed an agreement with renewable energy developer Industrial Sun for a 100+ megawatt (MW) solar project in Texas. It will become the only utility-scale solar farm mounted flat on the ground to date.
Erthos writes that “the project has an expected interconnect capacity of 100 MWac, all of which Industrial Sun is seeking to utilize,” as the exact size of the solar farm has not yet been revealed.
Industrial Sun was faced with a land constraint problem for this particular project, and that’s where Earth Mount Solar PV came in. Conventional solar mounting technologies typically require more than five acres of land per megawatt of capacity. But Earth Mount Solar PV only needs less than 2.5 acres per megawatt of capacity. So according to Erthos, its flat mounting technique enables solar farms to achieve an energy density that’s more than twice that of conventional utility-scale solar farms.
Erthos claims that a solar farm on its flat mounts can be built in half the time for half the cost of conventional mounting systems. It also says that it uses 70% less cable and needs 70% less trenching and that its system is hurricane proof.
In September 2021, PV Magazine Australia explained how Earth Mount Solar PV works:
The “ErthCompatible” specification that is licensed by Erthos requires the use of IP68 glass-glass modules. Module suppliers have mostly used bifacial modules to fit that requirement. Another feature of the specification is using aircraft cable threaded through the sides of the module, to prevent movement both up and down or side to side. Keeping the panels secure and flat allows the utilisation of another innovation of Erthos: an autonomous cleaning robot. The robot, or fleet of robots, runs nightly, and a single robot can clean up to 2 MW every day.
Educational website Solar Tech Advisor explains what IP68 solar panels are:
The highest rating that a solar panel can achieve for waterproofing is IP68. This rating means that the product is dust-tight and can be submerged in water for long periods of time. IP68 rated solar panels can be used in areas with high water pressure, such as permanent underwater solar applications.
Erthos says its robots take care of dirt and bird poo. Its CEO, Jim Tyler, told PV Magazine Australia:
The rough cost to clean a tracker plant, one time, is about 50 cents per kW. We clean our solar plant every day for a year for 50 cents per kW.
He also addressed concerns about high temperatures in the same interview:
I did a fatal flaw analysis on the idea. The only fatal flaw of concern that I had personally was temperature. And so once I proved the temperature performance of max cell temperature of the module, I was satisfied. I happened to live in Phoenix which is one of the highest temperature places on the planet. And it happened to get to 118 degrees (47.8 C) outside when I was running our first plant in 2019. And sure enough, the module cell temperatures don’t even approach maximum cell temperature. And I said: That’s the answer.
In March 2022, Erthos closed a $17.5 million Series B financing round, which was led by Capricorn Investment Group that has also invested in Tesla and SpaceX.
Top comment by Steve Bee
I would think that this makes sense in equatorial areas near 0 latitude where the sun actually swings a bit north and south through the course of the year.
What do you think of solar farms being mounted flat on the ground? Let us know in the comments below.
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