Reinventing Utility-Scale Solar From the Ground Up — Literally!

By Ryan Kennedy, PV Magazine


Erthos is looking to disrupt utility scale solar installation through “solar simplified, from the ground up,” by literally installing their panels on the dirt. Panels lay flat upon the ground as “earth mount solar” installations, casting aside the use of trackers, mounts, and racks for a low-material approach.

The dramatic reduction in panel cost in recent years has fueled this change. According to Erthos, at current module prices, it is more cost-effective to buy additional solar modules to make up for the loss of efficiency from foregoing trackers.

Erthos says it can install projects in half the time of typical utility scale plants, at nearly half the cost, with costs running less than $0.50/W. The simple, flat outlay of the panels require 70% less underground trenching, 70% less cable, and very little water consumption, according to the Tempe, AZ based startup. The project is not anchored into the ground, so there is no digging cost and no sub-surface risk to contend with as well.

The design eliminates the use of gaps between rows and the array is installed as a large unified sheet, and Erthos said this allows their project to use one third the land area of a conventional utility scale solar design. While this approach is land-conscious, it is not compatible with a new approach some developers are adopting to support native grasslands, and to prevent erosion and flooding.

A key feature of the flat-faced system is an autonomous robot that rolls around on the panels and clears them of soiling. As part of their energy services division, Erthos maintains the cleaning robot, and claims less than 1% soiling through the life of their 20-year operations, maintenance, and cleaning contract.

Since the panels lay completely flat on the ground, Erthos says their projects are resistant to category-four hurricanes.


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