Effects of dust on the performance of pv panels

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Accumulation of dust from the outdoor environment on the panels of solar photovoltaic (PV) system is natural. There were studies that showed that the accumulated dust can reduce the performance of solar panels, but the results were not clearly quantified. The objective of this research was to study the effects of dust accumulation on the performance of solar PV panels. Experiments were conducted using dust particles on solar panels with a constant-power light source, to determine the resulting electrical power generated and efficiency. It was found from the study that the accumulated dust on the surface of photovoltaic solar panel can reduce the system’s efficiency by up to 50%.



1.0                                        INTRODUCTION

1.1                           BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Solar photovoltaic (PV) system uses solar cells to convert energy from sun radiation into electricity. The system is made up by one or more panels, a battery, a charge control and the load. Solar PV panels are normally mounted on roofs and wired into a building by an inverter, which converts the direct current energy received from solar panels into alternating current. There are many types of solar PV cells available, which are mainly monocrystalline silicon cells, multi crystalline silicon cells, thick film silicon, and amorphous silicon. The application of solar energy has become wider in Nigeria.

Considering that the country gets an average of 8 hours of sunshine every day, there is huge potential for high solar power generation. At present, the number of solar PV applications in Nigeria is still growing. It is generally restricted to rural electrification, street and garden lighting, and telecommunications. The project would be expected to enable the operator to understand the system well before embarking into development of plants of bigger scale.

A drop in the efficiency of a solar PV panel throughout its life cycle is not desired, since the capital cost for the system is quite high. PV cells can normally last for about 25 years, and it takes approximately up to six years [5] for the solar PV module to generate the equivalent amount of energy consumed in its manufacturing processes. One of the contributing factors in the drop of efficiency of solar PV panels in Nigeria as well as in other country is the accumulated dust on the panel. The nature of the problem may vary by geographical locations.

Hottel and Woertz [6] were amongst the pioneers investigating the impact of dust on solar systems. They recorded a maximum degradation in collector performance of 4.7%, with an average loss in incident solar radiation being less than 1%. In a study by Salim et al. [7] into dust accumulation on a solar-village PV system near Riyadh indicated a 32% reduction in performance after eight months. Wakim [8] indicated a reduction in PV power by 17% due to sand accumulation on panels in Kuwait city after six days. Furthermore the study also indicated that the influence of dust on PV performance would be higher in spring and summer than in autumn and winter. An experiment to investigate the effect of aeolian dust deposition on photovoltaic solar cells by Dirk Goosen et. al [9] showed that the deposition of fine aeolian dust particles on the glazing of PV cells significantly affected the performance of such cells. This experiment was conducted to investigate the effect of wind velocity and airborne dust concentration on the drop of PV cell performance caused by dust accumulation.

Google, one of the world’s well-known organizations in the information technology studied the effects of dirt on solar panels of a 1.6 MW solar installation in its Mountain View headquarters in California [10]. The company made a comparison on two different sets of solar panels in Google campus – the flat ones in carports and the tilted ones on roofs. Theoretically, dirt accumulates on top of the flat panels, whereas rain washes away most dirt on the tilted ones and leaves some accumulation in the corners. The Google crew cleaned them up as part of this study, 15 months after the installation of the panels. For the flat panels, the cleaning resulted in doubling of the energy output overnight. However, for the tilted panels, the difference was found to be relatively small. In a different study on the effects of dust on solar PV panel in Palo Alto, California [11], it was reported that the dirt on solar PV panels caused a 2% of current reduction relative to that for clean panels. Like the other reports, these two studies in California did not quantify the amount of dust involved.

In an experiment in Roorkee, India, Garg [12] discovered that dust accumulation on a glass plate tilted at 45° would reduce the transmittance by an average of 8% after an exposure period of 10 days. In a work by Sayigh [13] in Kuwait, it was observed that about 2.5 g/m²/day of dust were collected between April and June. Further investigation [14] on the effect of dust accumulation on the tilted glass plates revealed a reduction in plate-transmittance ranging from 64% to 17%, for tilt angles ranging from 0° to 60° respectively after 38 days of exposure. A reduction of 30% in useful energy gain was observed by the horizontal collector after three days of dust accumulation. In another study that included investigations of the physical properties and deposition density on the performance of solar PV panels by El-Shobokshy and Hussein [15], the artificial dust which included limestone, cement and carbon particulates were used. They used halogen lamps to represent the source of radiation energy. It was revealed in the study that cement particles (at 73 g/m²) would result in the most significant drop in the PV short-circuit voltage; i.e. by 80%. Interestingly, it was found

electrical circuit system. The solar panel module was made up of silicon mono-crystal cells; each cell had an area of 10 cm². The dimensions of the panel were 1004 mm by 448 mm by 43 mm. The system was installed in an indoor lab and the radiation energy was delivered by the spotlight system, each rated at 500W. The number of spotlights and their positions could be varied depending on the requirements of experiments. To measure irradiation on the solar panel, a HD2302 Delta OHM photo-radiometer was used. For the measurements of voltage and current, Sanwa YX360TRF analogue multimeters were used in the arrangement as illustrated in Figure 1. The system’s load was simulated by using different resistors.

1.2                                 PROBLEM STATEMENT

Currently, the use of renewable energy (solar) has increase in Nigeria due to the environmental pollution caused by the conventional generator and the increasing oil prices. Despite the high use of solar energy most users are ignorant of the environmental factors that affect the solar panel which at the end affects the efficiency of the solar panel output. This study was carried out to bring to the knowledge of the reader the effects of dust accumulation on the performance of solar PV panels on a designed solar system

1.3                   AIM AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The main aim of this research was to study the effects of dust accumulation on the performance of solar PV panels on a designed solar system.

  1. To investigate the direct effect of dust on solar panel
  2. To study how solar panel can be taken care of
  • understand how solar energy works
  1. to study how to install solar panel and inverter
  2. Understand safety issues that must be understood before you consider installing solar panels or PV system components onto your home.


The scope of this work covers the dust effect on the performance of solar pv panel on a design solar system. The peaking of most oil reserves and impending climate change are critically driving the adoption of solar photovoltaic’s (PV) as a sustainable renewable and eco-friendly alternative. Ongoing material research has yet to find a breakthrough in significantly raising the conversion efficiency of commercial PV modules. The installation of PV systems for optimum yield is primarily dictated by its geographic location (latitude and available solar insolation) and installation design (tilt, orientation and altitude) to maximize solar exposure.

1.5                                 RESEARCH QUESTIONS

This research work shall bring answers to the following questions:

  1. Does dust affect solar panel?
  2. What is the impact of dust on the PV efficiency?
  • How can you tell if a solar panel has dust?
  1. How does humidity affect the accumulation of dust on the surface of PV panel?

1.6                          SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

This work will serve as a means of enlightening the users of solar energy on how to maintain the performance of their solar energy by taking care of the accumulated dust on the panel.

This study will also help the solar panel installers to have a full knowledge on how a solar panel can be installed.

This study will enable the operator to understand the system well before embarking into development of plants of bigger scale.


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