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KTN-iX posts another challenge: could you solve the problem of controlling vegetation at solar farms?

Posted on 27/05/2019

KTN is looking for innovative companies to come up with a novel solution to a new challenge

United Utilities Renewable Energy (UURE) has asked KTN to help it solve a very real problem: controlling vegetation at its solar farms.

The company owns and operates over 60 renewable technology assets across the North West of England including solar photovoltaic (usually mounted close to the ground), hydro and wind turbines.  Keeping organic growth in check to ensure the safe and efficient operations of the systems is of paramount importance.

When vegetation, including grass, weeds and even small trees, grows over and around the panels, often overshadowing them, it can reduce output by 40% which leads to a loss in revenue.  Alongside the impact on performance there are safety implications, including an increased fire risk in hot, dry weather, an increased need for panel cleaning and a detrimental aesthetic effect.

The solution to this problem is not immediately apparent.  Due to the nature of some sites, the use of herbicide chemicals is prohibited as there is the potential to contaminate the water supply. Grazing livestock can damage the panels and the use of machinery around the panels can damage them and carries the risk of electrocution.  Solutions such as membranes and washed gravel have so far proved relatively ineffective.

UURE and KTN are looking to sectors such as Civil Engineering, Agriculture and Robotics and AI to propose potential solutions to their conundrum.  Successful applicants will be given an opportunity to pitch to the challenge holder and may also be given support from KTN or the Energy Systems Catapult, support to develop a prototype or pilot and a potential business collaboration.

KTN-iX is an online platform that promotes innovation transfer, matching real industry challenges from large companies (Tier 1 and 2) to organisations, often from other sectors, who have innovative technology and can facilitate faster development of novel solutions to those challenges.

Challenges on the platform are in one of three sectors – Offshore Wind, Energy Systems and Nuclear.  The solution to challenges could come from diverse sectors – the transfer of skills and knowledge from other sectors is a key driver for the platform.

To respond to this challenge, visit the KTN-iX challenge page here.  The challenge will close on 19 July.