Regular dusting bolsters solar panel performance

Regular dusting bolsters solar panel performance
“The impact of dust can vary with location, but for a large scale commercial program or even a regular household, it is important to maximise output,” he says. Credit: Duncan Rawlinson - @thelas

Perth residents who are the proud custodians of solar panels could boost the amount of power that the arrays produce over an extended period of time by simply removing dust particles from the panels.

Murdoch University researchers recently set out to determine the contribution of to the decreasing performance over time of photovoltaic (PV) modules (), which have become increasingly popular features of Perth homes and businesses in recent years.

The team investigated a series of PV modules at Murdoch's Renewable Energy Outdoor Testing Area (ROTA), which had been in the field and gathering dust for 18 years.

Murdoch School of Engineering and Information Technology PhD student Julius Tanesab says the study results show the PV modules' power output decreases as dust density increases.

"We decided to try and find out what the contribution of dust to the performance of PV modules might be," he says.

"We found the contribution of dust to PV module degradation was between 8-12 per cent, which really shows the importance of maintenance for this infrastructure to ensure it keeps working effectively."

The study showed the total degradation of the PV modules' ranged from 19 to 33 per cent over their 18 years in the field.

The degradation is mostly due to non-dust related factors such as corrosion, delamination, and discolouration, which account for about 71–84 per cent of these losses, however dust collection remains a significant factor.

Surrounding soils contributes to dust consistency

School of Engineering and Information technology researcher David Parlevliet says the found on the PVs mostly consisted of silica from the surrounding soils.

"We aim to find out where the dust is coming from, and what the particles are made of and their subsequent impact," Dr Parlevliet says.

"You will find different kinds of deposits depending on where the PVs are located.

"We found that the minerals were mostly compounds of quartz, calcium oxide and some minor amounts of feldspars minerals, which are the main factors in transmittance losses that affect PV module performance."

Mr Tanesab says they now intend to work out the economic impact of dust and develop ways to boost solar technology performance.

"I think the results can become a reference for communities and households using PV modules and solar technology," he says.

"The impact of dust can vary with location, but for a large scale commercial program or even a regular household, it is important to maximise output."


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More information: "The contribution of dust to performance degradation of PV modules in a temperate climate zone," Solar Energy, Volume 120, October 2015, Pages 147-157, ISSN 0038-092X, dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.solener.2015.06.052
Journal information: Solar Energy

Provided by Science Network WA

This article first appeared on ScienceNetwork Western Australia a science news website based at Scitech.

Citation: Regular dusting bolsters solar panel performance (2015, September 23) retrieved 14 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-09-regular-bolsters-solar-panel.html
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Sep 23, 2015
The study showed the total degradation of the PV modules' power output ranged from 19 to 33 per cent over their 18 years in the field.


That's a degrading rate of up to 2.25% a year. Extrapolated to 30 years the panels would be expected to lose up to 50% of their output, that is, if they aren't literally broken down by that point.

Sep 23, 2015
Wow, not one Chicken Little hypocrite telling us about their personal experience with the solar panels on their roof.

Sep 23, 2015
>Wonder how manufacturers are able to give 25 year 80 - 87% warranties.

By shipping modules that are somewhat overcapacity, and/or providing pro rata temporis warranties.

From the article:
".. power output decreases as dust density increases."

No kidding, but you have to balance the O&M costs of cleaning the array against the energy that you produce. For small arrays it is usually not cost-effective to hire out cleaning the modules (in places where it rains a few times a year).

Sep 24, 2015
My understanding is that the 25 and 30 year warranties are based on testing that is showing the new modules to be very stable.


The new panels haven't been around to be tested that long. They do accelerated aging and extrapolate, which is rarely reliable up to 30 years.

Warranties in general are a great swindle, and many things in effect just can't be guaranteed because of practical difficulties in quality control. See for example DVD-R discs, which invariably fail in 2-5 years despite being "guaranteed" to last up to 100.

Wonder how manufacturers are able to give 25 year 80 - 87% warranties.


What retrosurf said, and because they know they've made their exit before the people come back to collect their warranty. 25 years is a long time.

Take a look at the data on panels that were installed pre, and post 2000.


Clearly this study contradicts that data. I would rather trust Murdoch University researchers than some random advocate group.

Sep 24, 2015
Take a look at the data on panels that were installed pre, and post 2000.


Also, your website is using data from NREL which is based in Colorado US, to make claims about solar panels in use in Australia, which is basically apples to oranges. It's a different climate and a different environment.

There are cheaters in every industry, because they can. That's why it's important to not take any warranty claim or hype at face value - it's a lemon market anyways.

Sep 24, 2015
Or to put it in other terms:

Ask yourself, is the CEO and upper management of this company still working with this company, or even alive anymore, when the product warranty is supposed to expire?

If not, you can wipe your bottom with it.

Sep 24, 2015
Once we get completely rid of coal plants, there will be much less of the particulate matter to care about.

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