Solar Panel Cleaning Innovation Could Save Billions of Gallons of Water

Via Renewable Energy World, a report on a new innovation that will significantly reduce the watergy footprint of solar power:

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a method for cleaning solar panels that could potentially save billions of gallons of water.

“The water footprint of the solar industry is mind boggling,” said MIT Professor of mechanical engineering Kripa Varanasi. “So, the industry has to be very careful and thoughtful about how to make this a sustainable solution.”

By using electrostatic repulsion to remove dust from solar panels instead of water, the industry could save 10 billion gallons of water each year, the researchers said.

The MIT research team developed a lab-scale prototype for the dust removal process and demonstrated up to 95% recovery of lost power output.

Lab tests conducted showed that the dropoff of energy output from the panels happens steeply at the very beginning of the process of dust accumulation and can reach 30% reduction after one month without cleaning. Even a 1% reduction in power for a 150 MW solar installation could result in a $200,000 loss in annual revenue. The researchers said that globally, a 3-4% drop in power output from solar plants would amount to a loss of between $3.3 billion and $5.5 billion.

The novel cleaning process works by passing an electrode over the panel and applying an electrical charge to the panel itself. The operation can be conducted remotely.

The MIT team cited previous research that found 1 to 5 million gallons of water is used to clean each 100 MW of solar capacity as evidence that the industry needs to change how it cleans panels.

Lab tests determined that the process works best in humidity greater than 30%.

This entry was posted on Monday, March 21st, 2022 at 3:43 pm and is filed under Uncategorized.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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About This Blog And Its Author
As the scarcity of water and energy continues to grow, the linkage between these two critical resources will become more defined and even more acute in the months ahead.  This blog is committed to analyzing and referencing articles, reports, and interviews that can help unlock the nascent, complex and expanding linkages between water and energy -- The Watergy Nexus -- and will endeavor to provide a central clearinghouse for insightful articles and comments for all to consider.

Educated at Yale University (Bachelor of Arts - History) and Harvard (Master in Public Policy - International Development), Monty Simus has held a lifelong interest in environmental and conservation issues, primarily as they relate to freshwater scarcity, renewable energy, and national park policy.  Working from a water-scarce base in Las Vegas with his wife and son, he is the founder of Water Politics, an organization dedicated to the identification and analysis of geopolitical water issues arising from the world’s growing and vast water deficits, and is also a co-founder of SmartMarkets, an eco-preneurial venture that applies web 2.0 technology and online social networking innovations to motivate energy & water conservation.  He previously worked for an independent power producer in Central Asia; co-authored an article appearing in the Summer 2010 issue of the Tulane Environmental Law Journal, titled: “The Water Ethic: The Inexorable Birth Of A Certain Alienable Right”; and authored an article appearing in the inaugural issue of Johns Hopkins University's Global Water Magazine in July 2010 titled: “H2Own: The Water Ethic and an Equitable Market for the Exchange of Individual Water Efficiency Credits.”