Yes, there are, and they are called self-cleaning panels.
We all know that the high solar radiation in deserts make them suitable for installing solar panels. But deserts are also dusty which does not bode well for solar panels. Did you know that just four grams of dust per one square meter of a solar cell’s surface can reduce its energy output by 40 percent?
This is why cleaning of solar panels is done on a regular basis. But cleaning can be time consuming, expensive and may even corrode the panel frame in extreme cases. Often, water can be the reason why solar panels get dirty. Water traps particulate matter, which in turn sticks to the panels once the water evaporates.
As a solution to this problem, researchers have created different versions of self-cleaning panels over time. There are nano-hydrophobic coatings that have been developed to keep panels clean for a longer period. Their water-repelling property is core to its cleaning ability. Some of these solutions also prevent algal formation and bird faeces from sticking to solar panels.
In another effort, a team of researchers from MIT and Masdar Institute of Technology are currently developing a low cost super-coating that enhances the self-cleaning, abrasion-resistance, self-healing, anti-reflection and anti-static properties of solar cells. A multi-property solution like this sounds ambitious which also means it is challenging.
Self-cleaning panels, if commercially available, can reduce O&M expenses to a considerable extent which eventually means better returns on investment.
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