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Innovations in Solar Power and Solar Panel Cleaning

By Wayan Vota on August 2, 2009

It’s our learned opinion that the best power source for rural ICT implementations is solar panels feeding deep-cycle batteries. But solar is expensive, $10-14 per Watt installed (see Mat Berg’s Solar Calculator), so we’re excited by any technology advances that can reduce initial costs.

Solar panel maintenance

Currently, the Economist reports on two advances that can give us more competitive solar power production.

Use Less Silicon

GreenSun Energy, has figured out how to diffuse light sideways to the edges of solar panels. This means that their solar panels only need silicon at the outer edges of the glass plates. GreenSun Energy does this by coating the glass with a combination of dyes and sprinkling it with metal nano particles.

Don’t Use Any Silicon

3GSolar skips silicon altogether, using “dye-sensitized” solar cells with titanium dioxide and ruthenium dye molecules to generate electricity via sunlight. This process is not as efficient as silicon-based methods, but dye-sensitized cells are much cheaper to make.

Wash Whatever You Have

From the solar-powered Googleplex, we learn that washing solar panels has a significant impact on performance.

Google has flat and tilted solar panels on their offices in Silicon Valley, and after analyzing the power output they’ve come to an obvious conclusion. Their tilted panels are washed enough by rain, but flat solar panels need additional cleaning. In fact, washing flat panels can doubled energy output overnight.

Tilt It When Away From Equator

Google also found that tilting solar panels increased performance of panels at 37° North. With a 15° tilt, solar panel produce more electricity than flat panels. Add in the rain washing effects, and solar panel tilt is a recommended installation action.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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One Comment to “Innovations in Solar Power and Solar Panel Cleaning”

  1. XLPI Industries says:

    We have our panels serviced by a company called Solar Maid and the results are great. I don’t agree that tilted panels don’t need cleaned because all of our panels are set at an angle and rain just does not do a good enough job in fact sometimes the rain actually makes the panels worse.

    We have proven results of 17% more power output for up to 2 months after cleaning and the cost of having these panels maintained equals a fraction of the of that output.

    In short, I recommend regular cleaning on all panels regardless of their position and I would also recommend Solar Maid who is the nationwide leader in this service.

    Paul G.
    XLPI Industries