Recent Study Suggests That Pollution of Air Reduces the Yield of Solar Power

The Government of India is doing a lot to make solar energy and wind energy the future of India’s energy requirements. They have expected the power capacity of solar energy to be doubled by end of 2017. But there is growing problem, especially in the northern solar power plants. This problem is air pollution.

A first-of-its-kind study has found that the particulate matter and dust from air pollution may be the cause behind reducing the energy yield of all the solar power systems in the northern part of India by at least 17%-25% annually.

Mike Bergin, a professor at Duke University, leading the study, said that in this reduction, half of it comes from particles and dust that get deposited on the solar panel surface forming some sort of physical barrier, which prevents light from entering the solar cells. To test this theory, researches allowed the panels to become dusty for at least a month.

The other half of the energy yield decline was because of ambient pollution i.e. haze, which reduces the sunlight amount that reaches the ground. This phenomenon is known as solar dimming.

A study from Baghdad in 2016 found that about 18.74% decline in the efficiency of solar cells is because they were left uncleaned for about a month. A paper was released in 2014 from USA’s Colorado, which said that about 4.1% transmission of light was lost every gram per sq. meter of accumulated dust on the plate of photovoltaic cells.

There have been very less study of air pollution on the other hand. One very rare study explored the effects of haze on ten photovoltaic systems in 2013 in Singapore during the forest fires in Indonesia.

The study by Mike Bergin is the first and foremost study that has started to quantify the impact of a combined manner of deposited matter and ambient particles. His team analysed the solar panels and deposits on them at the Gandhinagar IIT Campus and they tracked the yield of energy after and before cleaning the panels. They developed a model by estimating the change in the transmittance per unit mass of deposit for the solar panel. The proportions of pollution and dust were made similar to that, which is found in the northern region of India.

The fraction of the dust, which was blown there by wind and the dust that was caused from activity of humans, wasn’t analysed.  It is very simple that frequent cleaning has to be done to solve one part of the problem of pollution on the solar power yield. The generation of power jumped up by at least 50% after each cleaning took place.