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Solar farms can help power an energy-hungry world by turning sunlight into electricity, but they'll need a lot of solar panels. A mobile German robot arm could do the job of installing such panels at almost half the normal cost, day or night.

The robot arm uses suction cups to grab solar panels and swing them into place with 3D guidance from cameras, according to Technology Review. Its body resembles an all-terrain vehicle that has treads resembling those of a tractor or tank, all assembled from off-the-shelf Japanese parts by German construction firm PV Kraftwerker.

Such a robot can only do simple jobs such as laying the panels on a metal frame, so that human workers can finish attaching the panel and wiring it up with electrical connections. But the robot's heavy lifting has helped complete installations with just three human workers — jobs that used to require 35 workers and eight times as long.

The robot has impressed Japan's government enough so that it wants its own version to help install a solar power plant in radioactive areas near the site of the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown. Such a robot may join the robotic farmers Japan wants to deploy to clean up damaged farmland in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Source: Technology Review

This story was provided by InnovationNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience. Follow InnovationNewsDaily on Twitter @News_Innovation, or on Facebook.