We use compressed air dusters to clean our keyboards, but do we adopt the same method to remove the dust on solar panels? British scientists have recently developed an experimental air compression system that cools down modules and elevates power generation volume, while cleaning solar panels.
Sand and gravel are regarded as the archenemies of solar power, where both scratches and accumulated dust would impact the conversion efficiency, and reduce the power generation up to 35%, as well as lower the lifespan of solar panels. The blazing heat also affects the power generation efficiency. What are some of the ideal methods to cool down the temperature and remove dust for solar panels during water scarcity?
The University of Warwick has researched and developed an air compression system accordingly, which is formed with a compressor, air bottle, barometric damper, and 5mm-caliber nozzles. The nozzles may look similar to ordinary nozzles, and they were analyzed by the research team through mathematical models in order to blow away the dust on the modules and implement cooling effect, with testing in progress at solar farms in Northwest India.
The source of power for the compressor comes from the solar panels, which also compress air using the barometric damper to achieve dust removal and cooling effects. As pointed out by the research team, this particular equipment is installed on the edge of solar panels, and blows away the dust and heat from the modules through thin airflow, whereas the airflow pipes can also be relocated to other areas for cleaning. The research team commented that all components are low cost products produced through standardized procedures.
The research team is currently implement testing at the solar farm in Northwest India. When covered with 5.3g of gravel on the surface, the power output of the solar system is reduced from 42.5W to 37.5W when the temperature of the surface is arrived at 29°C celsius, and is returned to 41.81W when two units of nozzles are installed.
The experiment also pointed out that the power generation volume is lowered to 28.24W under a temperature of 59°C celsius, and the temperature of the module is reduced 41°C celsius, with the power output elevated to 32.42W. The research team also further studied the cooling effect of the nozzles on various length of usages ranging from 10, 15, to 20 seconds, which rendered a power generation volume of 30.7%, 33.6%, and 36.1% respectively under 567.4W.
However, the air compression system requires further elevation in cooling effect and performance as the source of power comes from solar panels, where a prolonged operation damages PV efficiency. As commented by the research team, a precise configuration on the blowing time and the particular sizes of gravel in order to obtain a balance between energy consumption under compressed air and the improvement on solar performance.
A further optimization on nozzle configuration, cleaning frequency, and time is required to integrate maximum power point (MPPT) under various deposition rate of gravel and solar module temperature.
(Cover photo is a sketch, source: shutterstock)