The events of sand and dust storms are either regional or local. Unfortunately, the resulting dust deposition on the surface of the photovoltaic modules reduces the amount of incident radiation on the panel and creates shadow effect. More precisely, the radiation decrease leads to PV power reduction. Hence, if the dust deposition increases, the corresponding electricity generation reduces.
This attenuation (power loss) depends upon the dust characteristics, e.g. size of dust particle and density of the dust deposited .Previous studies showed that in dry areas exposed to a fairly large amount of dust storms, these losses could reach 15%.
What is usually done to abate the issue of dust (soiling) on panels?
Solar panels are generally self-cleaning, but in particularly dry areas or where panel tilt is minimal, dust and other substances such as bird droppings can build up over time and impact on the amount electricity generated by a module. Hence, cleaning of these panels become and imperative need. The frequency of cleaning depends pretty much on the amount of dust and dirt the panels are exposed to. Several interactions with project developers make Solar Mango suggest a cleaning pattern of once every two weeks for optimal output.
To clean a solar panel requires more than a once over with a feather duster- only a good wipe with water does the job. Typically solar facilities use distilled water for washing the panels to avoid mineral scale deposits that might interfere with capturing the Sun’s rays.
Are panels the only component affected by dust in solar power plants?
Apart from panels, inverters are also subject to breakdowns when exposed to high amounts of dust. The stress imposed by sandstorms can be especially severe, as the very fine dust can penetrate even the smallest openings, potentially causing problems within the interior of the inverter, the key component in any PV system. This fine sand and dust settling on an inverter’s sensitive electronics represents an enormous potential risk to the operation and longevity of the entire PV plant. Regular inverter inspections and cooling system maintenance are vitally important to your inverter’s production capacity.
Check with the inverter specifications as to whether they come with a minimum protection rating of IP 65, especially if installed outdoors. This signifies a high resistance against dusty conditions in inverters. You might also want to check out the inverter rooms to ensure that they are maintained dust-free.
Also, as mentioned above, it is imperative that you check the cleaning practices and cleaning frequencies followed for the inverters as well as the panels.
You might want to check out these questions on Solar Power Plant Evaluation – Location Specifics
- Are there solar panels suitable for high dust environments? – Here
- Evaluation of performance during high winds – Here
- Evaluation of performance at high temperature – Here
- Is the solar power plant located in areas prone to floods and water logging? – Here