Solar power is expected to reach 10 percent of global power generation by the year 2030. It is estimated the solar energy generation industry will see a compound annual growth rate of 24% during this period.
Most of that growth will occur in the deserts, where the sun is abundant and land costs are low. However, the dust and dirt from these rugged environments has a detrimental impact on power generation and revenue.
It is estimated dust and dirt can reduce output by up to 30% in just one month. Globally, a 3 to 4% reduction in power output from solar plants would result in a loss of $3.3b to $5.5 billion. Obviously regular cleaning is essential.
According to MIT researchers, cleaning solar panels currently uses 10 billion gallons of water per year – equivalent to the drinking water needs of 2 million people. The water used for cleaning must be trucked to these remote sites and pressurized for cleaning. Dry scrubbing is sometimes used but can cause permanent scratching that reduces performance and irreversibly damages the panels.
Blowing may be one solution. Removing dirt and dust with downwash followed by a light powered rinse and blow dry – all from above, would reduce water requirements without scratching. The key would be taming the downwash to apply just the force required while preventing turbulence to keep the water only where intended.