Robots Climb Walls to Prevent Power Plant Outages

March 17, 2016
Everyone wants to prevent power plant outages, and these robots help avoid them by climbing plant walls and gathering data about potential problems. When they discover problems, they do it quickly and efficiently, arming plant owners with money-saving information.

Everyone wants to prevent power plant outages: Utility customers  don’t want to go without power. And power plant owners especially want to avoid outages because they’re costly and often require them to resort to using replacement power based on dirty fuels.

Enter the wall-climbing robots from Gecko Robotics. Magnetic adhesion technology allows the robots to crawl up the walls of power plants on wheels that adhere to magnetic surfaces, inspecting power plants for issues that can cause outages, says Jake Loosararian, CEO of the company.

“Many type of advanced sensors or other types of instruments gather data, taking measurements to measure corrosion, cracking or deformation in equipment,” he explains. Using a customized software program, the robots deliver real-time updates about this data to inspectors at the base level.

The real-time reports help inspectors and companies that own the power plants make quick decisions, he says.

But most important, the robots quickly and efficiently gather information that helps avoid power plant outages, saving plant owners millions of dollars.

“When plants are down, owners can lose up to $10,000 an hour, and when they are down for 7 to 8 days, it adds up,” Loosararian says.  “We can do the inspection in one to two days, and the cost savings can reaches millions. We  have plant managers who’ve told us, ‘Your inspection helped us avoid an outage.'”

The robots also make inspection more efficient. Generally, when people do the inspections, teams of 6 to 12 people set up scaffolding, often in boiler areas that are 100 feet high, he says. Setup requires two to three days, and inspections can take seven to eight days.

“The quicker the inspection, the quicker the boiler can turn on and begin making energy. This is essential because each hour the power plant is down, they are losing tens of thousands of dollars,” he says. “We’ve made this whole inspection process seven times more efficient.  Most importantly, from our perspective, we’ve made it safer. It can be dangerous; people get injured and sometimes die. Our vision is to eliminate injuries and deaths through automation.”

Right now, the robots climb the walls of fossil-fuel fired plants, but the do-gooder founders of the company want their robots to enter the renewable energy field soon.

“We want to move more into distributed energy; we want to integrate our technology int0 all different types of verticals, and the next step is renewables,” he says.

Read more about technologies that avoid power plant outages on

About the Author

Lisa Cohn | Contributing Editor

I focus on the West Coast and Midwest. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve been writing about energy for more than 20 years, and my stories have appeared in EnergyBiz, SNL Financial, Mother Earth News, Natural Home Magazine, Horizon Air Magazine, Oregon Business, Open Spaces, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Monthly and other publications. I’m also a former stringer for the Platts/McGraw-Hill energy publications. I began my career covering energy and environment for The Cape Cod Times, where Elisa Wood also was a reporter. I’ve received numerous writing awards from national, regional and local organizations, including Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Willamette Writers, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Voice of Youth Advocates. I first became interested in energy as a student at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where I helped design and build a solar house.

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