Solar industry experts engage on solutions to PV performance challenges in desert environments
A specialized workshop ‘Photovoltaic (PV) Robot Cleaning’, organized by Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI), part of Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), drew over 100 international delegates from academia and industry. The virtual workshop aimed to share knowledge on addressing the challenges facing the solar PV industry, particularly those related to soiling and cleaning.
The workshop highlighted how, despite the abundant potential for solar PV power plants in desert environments, their maximum efficiency is hampered by environmental conditions. The combination of humidity and dust - including soiling and cementing if not cleaned regularly - pose a major challenge for PV performance, decreasing the efficiency of the solar panels.
In water-scarce desert regions, automated cleaning robots are widely employed for cleaning solar panels and facades. To advance understanding of the technology, this workshop explored industry adoption, technology trends, impacts on modules, testing standards, and future research needs.
Dr. Veronica Bermudez, Senior Research Director, Energy Center, QEERI, said: “The fact that we had delegates participating from different parts of the world, as far afield as California and China, and despite the differences in time zones, is recognition of QEERI’s workshop as a key knowledge-sharing platform on a global scale. Delegates represented PV module and robot cleaning manufacturers, PV project developers, and research institutes.”
The latest innovations in robotic module cleaning, including economical and practical considerations, were discussed as a way to improve the return on investment for large power plants in desert environments. Experts addressed the next generation of robots for trackers, effective approaches to ensure high cleaning efficiency, standardization efforts including abrasion testing, and soiling management cost optimization in PV plants. Outcomes offered a clear understanding of lessons learned from case studies in Qatar, South Africa, and the USA, which can be exported to other solar markets such as Australia and China.
Carla Dawson, Co-Founder of smart PV cleaning company, Relysym, who presented from the US, was positive about the event: “The workshop covered the entire spectrum of solar panel cleaning topics and there should be more editions in the future. QEERI brought together the most knowledgeable and experienced people from research, industry, and academia from well-known brands like Novasource, Nomadd, Eccopia, and Repso, to leading academic and research institutions like Fraunhofer, NREL, and more. It has most certainly been a great experience.”
Dr. Marc Vermeersch, Executive Director, QEERI, said: “Knowledge-sharing and constant learning is at the crux of a good research team. Individually, there is only so much we can do but through collaboration – sharing knowledge and resources - we can unify our efforts in tackling common challenges. The issues facing the PV industry in arid regions are similar – be it here in Qatar, or Arizona, or Australia - and having experts come together to discuss these challenges and how they can be overcome, is a collective positive step for the PV sector. We hope to organize more such sessions, and to continue contributing towards addressing these challenges.”
QEERI conducts extensive research in solar energy across its various world class facilities including the 35,000 square meter Outdoor Test Facility, and its recently commissioned PV Reliability Labs. For more information, please visit qeeri.hbku.edu.qa