OUC and Duke Energy Florida have enlisted the help of local universities to come up with an easier, cost-effective solution to controlling grass and weeds on solar farm land. A longtime challenge for utilities, the farm land – especially under the solar panels – is difficult and costly to maintain due to the size of the land parcels and obstruction of the panels. That’s why students from the University of Central Florida, University of South Florida and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg are designing robotic mowers.

About 40 students visited a solar facility in January to conduct research and obtain data for their projects, which have to meet certain criteria: the mowers must have the ability to traverse under and around the panels, be powered by batteries and not gasoline, and not feature blades. In May, they’ll bring their creations back to the site for a friendly competition. The goal is to make the competition annual and expand on the previous years’ designs. For instance, next year’s design could include a docking station for the solar mower.

Hear from Justin Kramer why this competition can help utilities across the nation.