California-based startup Built Robotics has just unveiled an amazing autonomous construction robot that is set to revolutionize the creation of utility-scale solar farms. By speeding up construction processes, this impressive innovation not only helps us transition to a cleaner energy future but also prioritizes the safety of workers.
We all know that combating climate change requires a shift away from fossil fuel-based electricity generation, which is a significant source of carbon emissions. As we continue to electrify our cars, machines, and industries, there is a growing demand for more electricity. And that’s where automation comes in handy in the construction world.
Constructing a utility-scale solar farm is no small feat. It involves a lengthy process of finding suitable locations and obtaining permits, which can take years. Even after that, building the solar farm itself can be a time-consuming endeavor. Additionally, the decreasing cost of solar panels means that construction and labor expenses have become more prominent in the overall cost of solar power. To keep driving down solar prices, we need to find ways to increase productivity in these areas.
That’s where Built Robotics’ incredible creation, the RPD 35, comes into play — this autonomous construction robot focuses on expediting the installation of solar piles, which are crucial for building solar farms. These heavy steel beams, about 15 feet long, are driven approximately eight feet into the ground to serve as the foundation for the solar array.
The RPD 35 robot revolutionizes this process by taking over the hard work. It can carry up to 200 piles at a time, lifting them from an onboard basket and driving them into the ground at an astonishing speed of approximately one pile every 73 seconds. Thanks to onboard GPS technology, the robot ensures precise placement with an accuracy of less than one inch.
Justin Russell, Built’s Head of Field Operations, explains, “Our software creates a sequence for placing the piles. The baskets on board the excavator are loaded in a specific order that allows the piles to be placed exactly where they need to be.”
According to FreeThink, The impact of this advancement is tremendous. Constructing a 250 MW solar farm, which can power around 100,000 homes, often requires a massive number of solar piles (up to 100,000, in fact). With Built Robotics’ construction robot, a two-person crew can install up to 300 piles per day, an incredible three to five times more efficient than traditional methods.
Built Robotics’ CEO, Noah Ready-Campbell, highlights the benefits, stating, “Our piling robots significantly improve the efficiency of workers on job sites, which is vital in the challenging construction labor market. Equally important, they ensure workers’ safety by reducing noise exposure, physical strain, and the risks of accidents.”
But Built Robotics doesn’t stop there. In addition to automating pile driving, the company has also developed an automation system that can be integrated into commercial excavators used for trenching underground cables. This system is already available, and they plan to deploy the RPD 35 to customers before the end of 2023. Built Robotics is committed to finding more ways to automate monotonous and hazardous tasks on solar construction sites, as they firmly believe that automation is the future of the construction industry.
Justin Russell emphasizes their long-term commitment, saying, “Here at Built, we’re in it for the long haul. We truly believe that automation is the key to meeting future demands in the construction world. It’s an exciting future we’re building together!”