Mobile 'bots work to increase solar panel efficiency (video)

CNET News correspondent Kara Tsuboi visits Qbotix in Menlo Park, Calif., as the company shows off a new robotic tracking system that pivots solar panels in the direction of the sun.

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Here's the problem with solar panels. Most of the time they're static and unable to rotate with the sun, which in the end means less electrical output. Menlo Park, Calif., based startup Qbotix has built a commercial prototype that offers an answer. It's called SolBot, and it's a set of mobile robots that quickly move around a railroadlike track and mechanically pivot the panel.

The engineers at Qbotix say their setup is different than conventional tracking systems, which require each photovoltaic panel to have a controller and motor. One mobile robot can manage up to 200 panels and help produce 300 kilowatts of energy. The bots can also monitor power, and if one fails, another SolBot comes in to replace it.

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