Technical Briefs

Effects of Natural and Manual Cleaning on Photovoltaic Output

[+] Author and Article Information
Matthew K. Smith

Department of Chemistry and Department
of Mechanical and Materials Engineering,
Portland State University,
Portland, OR 97207-0751

Carl C. Wamser

e-mail: wamserc@pdx.edu

Keith E. James

Department of Chemistry,
Portland State University,
Portland, OR 97207-0751

David J. Sailor

Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering,
Portland State University,
Portland, OR 97207-0751

Todd N. Rosenstiel

Department of Biology,
Portland State University,
Portland, OR 97207-0751

Contributed by the Solar Energy Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF SOLAR ENERGY ENGINEERING. Manuscript received August 7, 2012; final manuscript received February 15, 2013; published online June 11, 2013. Assoc. Editor: Santiago Silvestre.

J. Sol. Energy Eng 135(3), 034505 (Jun 11, 2013) (4 pages) Paper No: SOL-12-1193; doi: 10.1115/1.4023927 History: Received August 07, 2012; Revised February 15, 2013

Photovoltaic arrays are known to suffer power efficiency losses over time due to accumulation of natural dirt and dust. The importance of cleaning in order to maintain efficiencies and the significance of natural cleaning by rainfall have not been widely studied in different climates. Monocrystalline silicon photovoltaic panels located in Portland, Oregon, were evaluated for the effects of natural soiling on power output and correlated with efficiencies after manual cleaning or natural rainfall. The masses of particulates on each panel were measured when cleaning the panels, and the effects of the manual cleaning and natural cleaning by rainfall were compared. In order to distinguish possible causes for the losses in efficiency, thermal effects of soiling were also studied. During a 17-day rain-free period in July and Aug. 2011, natural particulate deposition was measured at 0.85 g/m2, which led to a power output about 4% lower than a nominally identical clean panel. A single natural rainfall event was sufficient to clean the panel to a level that restored power output to within 1% of the manually cleaned panel. Natural particulate deposition at that level did not detectably affect panel temperature, suggesting that the power losses were due to optical scattering effects rather than temperature effects. Artificially managed temperature adjustments did significantly affect power output, consistent with the expected temperature effects for monocrystalline silicon. Given the effectiveness of natural rainfall in cleaning the panels, appropriate protocols for maintaining optimum efficiencies can be determined for different climate situations.

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Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

Schematic representation of the experimental modules, where x represents the location of temperature sensors on the backs of the panels

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

The effect of panel temperature on power output

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

Difference in panel surface temperature ( °C) between panels 5B and 6B before (8/11) and after (8/12) panel 5B was cleaned

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 4

Percentage difference in daily total power output between panel 5B and 6B before cleaning (prior to 8/12), after cleaning 5B only (between 8/12 and 8/22), and after a rain event (8/23 and beyond)




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