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Using efficient cleaning machines to deal with the problem of dust on solar panels

solar panelsThere’s an interesting story by Kevin Bullis in MIT Technology Review.  It’s about the purchase by solar company SunPower of a company that makes machines to clean solar panels.  The point is that some of the best places for constant sunshine are deserts, where dust can impair the panels’ efficiency, but where water is not plentiful.  The company SunPower has bought, Greenbiotics, has technology to help counter this.  They have panel cleaning machines that use 90 percent less water than handwashing takes, just half a cup per panel.  What might also be useful are dust-repellent coatings and panels less vulnerable to heat damage.

I’m pretty convinced that solar, by which I mean photo-voltaic, power is the next wave after fracking.  The cost is coming down year by year on a graph that’s going to intersect with more traditional power sources very soon.  Our cars and engines will be powered by gas from fracking for some years, with solar gradually stepping alongside as a major energy source.  It’s interesting to see SunPower make a move that could make those few percentage points that separate success and profit from failure and loss.

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One Response

  1. Interesting subject. I understand that the Sahara Desert if covered with solar cells would produce 750 Terawatts of electrical energy. The current World consumption is around 13.5 Terawatts or 55.5 times less than the Sahara could produce. Needless to say, there are almost impossible obstacles including sand storms and shifting sand plus no energy production at night. However, electrical energy can be transferred through a grid system and one way of storing it is to produce electrically heated hot water underground storage lakes and use this for efficient district heating systems. It could signel the demise of gas for central heating etc.

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