Did you know that dust accumulation on solar panels can negatively impact their energy output by as much as 30% in just one month? Regular cleaning is essential for the efficiency of solar installations, but this process can use up a lot of water. At a time where water throughout the United States’ western regions, this can be concerning. But there is a new development for cleaning solar panels without using water. ScienceDaily.com reports that about 10 billion gallons of water is used per year to clean solar panels. Waterless cleaning has proven to be tricky in the past, causing damages and scratches on the surface of the panels, which also inhibits energy output. A research team at MIT has created a way to clean the panels automatically without water or contact, significantly reducing the dust problem and the water usage problem while also ensuring the protection of the panels.
Why Dust is a Problem
Dust on solar panels can impede energy accumulation. This MIT research shows that just a 1% reduction in power on a 150 mega-watt installation can result in $200,000 of lost annual revenue. Globally, a 3-4% reduction can mean a loss of $3.5 to $5.5 billion. There is a lot of work going into the success of solar power and improving efficiency by even just a few percent makes everything worth it.
How MIT’s System Works
The system uses “electrostatic repulsion to cause dust particles to detach and virtually leap off the panel's surface, without the need for water or brushes.” The system is activated by an electrode, which can be a simple metal bar, that passes above the surface of the panels, delivering an electrical charge to the particles of dust. An opposite charge on the glass of the solar panel, just a few nanometers thick, is just enough strength to overcome gravity and bonded forces to allow for the dust particles to lift away. An electric motor and guide rails can be used along the sides of the panels, which makes operation simple and easy. The MIT team’s experiments worked effectively, but they noticed that it was trickier in high humid situations. This isn’t a huge deterrent, however, because most solar companies reside in hot, dry, desert locations.
With many top solar producing companies in the world located in desert areas, water-less cleaning is vital to solar’s long-term success. Water to clean solar panels at these facilities needs be trucked in in large quantities. About ten percent of solar operating costs are a result of water cleaning. With frequent automated electrostatic repulsion cleaning, these operating costs can be minimized while also saving precious water resources.
Every day, we see new developments in the use of solar. Solar is an innovative and smart choice for acquiring and delivering power throughout the globe. Four Seasons Solar is passionate about solar power and is your source for reliable, green power in the state of Utah. Reach out to us today with any questions and to get a free quote for your home or business.