Swap Robotics announced it has secured $7 million in seed funding to automate solar vegetation management with 100% electric autonomous robots. This round was led by SOLV Energy, one of the largest utility-scale solar project developers in the U.S., with participation from some largest solar vegetation cutters, angel investors and SOSV's HAX.
Solar is one of the fasting growing segments in the renewables industry. However, the cost of solar vegetation maintenance, unsustainable equipment and labor shortages have become barriers to a project's efficient operation and hence solar's rapid adoption, especially for large-scale projects. According to leading solar O&M providers, maintaining the vegetation takes up a large proportion of solar project operating expenses.
Traditional solutions like using diesel-powered lawnmowers are neither efficient nor sustainable. Coupled with limitations caused by project structures on typical cutting equipment operations and labor shortages due to challenging working conditions, solar vegetation management calls for an innovative, efficient solution to support the fast pace of solar deployment worldwide.
Swap Robotics offers a customizable and autonomous robotic solution. Its electric robots adhere to a Robotics-as-a-Service concept and integrate an in-house hydraulics platform that can easily "swap" attachments for diverse use cases and activities.
During the initial run, the robot pre-maps each site to determine the most efficient, safest path through the project area. Then it can run its routes autonomously with remote supervision. In addition to the feature of 24/7 operability, Swap's robots are designed to traverse variable terrain with cutting decks suited to tackle thick grass and woody vegetation that can reach up to two inches in diameter.
"We're thrilled to be partnered with USA's largest utility-scale solar builders and largest solar vegetation cutters to help make solar energy more affordable for decades to come," said Tim Lichti, CEO of Swap Robotics.
"The solar industry is gearing up for huge investment resulting from the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. Driving the development of innovative technology is essential to optimizing our capabilities and preparing our workforce for the influx of new projects in a growing number of states," said George Hershman, CEO of SOLV Energy.
Swap Robotics will use the funding to expand its team, and ramp up solar vegetation cutting operations by partnering with some of the largest utility-scale solar developers.