A study by scientists in the US and India has shown that dust hinders the effectiveness of solar panels. The accumulation of dust on solar panels creates a much bigger headache, as it cuts their ability to generate energy. With the UAE making multi-billion dollar investments in solar power, this is no trivial matter. The issue is now being acted upon locally with, for example, Dubai Municipality having recently installed machinery to automatically clean solar panels at Al Khazan Park. Like many other panel-cleaning devices developed in recent years, this machinery is powered by the sun and uses rotating brushes to sweep away dust. Such sophisticated kits do not come cheap, and cleaning panels can also sometimes lead to damage. It is therefore useful to be able to quantify how much of a loss of generating capacity that dust on panels causes, so that the costs and benefits of cleaning can be more precisely understood.
The recent study provides details that could prove useful. “With our method, you could start to quantify the downside — not just the damage (from cleaning), but the lost power when you don’t clean. That’s one of the most useful things for industry,” said one of the study’s authors, Drew Shindell, a Professor of Climate Sciences at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
Published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters, the research focused on three areas of the world that are ramping up their solar-power capacity: the Arabian peninsula, northern India, and eastern and central China. Along with looking at the consequences of particles building up on panels, the research also estimated the extent to which ambient particles that are floating in the air block out solar energy.