Solar panels generate electricity using stored light energy accumulated from the sun. It can supply electricity to houses and commercial buildings. The modern solar panel was developed in the early 1950’s. The technology was perfected by the military during the cold war. It was used to power satellites that were introduced and relied upon as a tool for surveillance.
Renewable energy from solar panels is a new technology. That is one of the reasons for its high cost besides the shortage of component, processed silicon. More demand and production will eventually bring the cost down. Due to the political impact, environmental issues, and heavy reliance on fossil fuels, there is increasing interest in other sources of energy like solar panels. Government subsidies became available to further encourage renewable energy development.
Solar panel efficiency is one of these concerns. Since a solar panel’s energy is dependent on the sunlight it is able to collect and store, anything that blocks its exposure to sunlight affects its performance. Its ability to catch and store energy from the sun can be reduced by dust and debris that settle on the panels. Dirt can easily accumulate and block the cells affecting the energy output of flat panels. Research has shown that 4 grams per sq. m. of dust layer alone (Arizona accumulates 17 grams per sq. m. per mo.) can reduce solar energy output by 40%.
A study by Google has demonstrated this. The panel’s efficiency doubled overnight after a crew cleaned it 15 months after installation. The results of their initial study were further confirmed 8 months later when the electricity output of the flat panels improved by 36%. The tilted panels did not show much difference in efficiency. They retain very little dirt; rain-washes most of it away so that very minimal is left in the corners that affect the output of the panels. While dirt accumulates over time, there is more concentration during the winter months.
It is recommended to conduct solar panel cleaning regularly especially on the horizontal/flat panels in areas that are dusty. Flat panels do not clean well. But heavy rain can easily clean and drain a tilted panel. If you do the cleaning annually, a good time would be just after winter. It takes only 5 to 15 minutes (at the most) using a hose, with soap and water, to wash your panels. However, once it is done the efficiency of your panel goes up noticeably. The more energy you generate the sooner you will get a return on your investment. Be careful not to cause yourself or anyone any injury. Use a suitable rake for areas of the panel you cannot reach.
You may have to wait until the ice has fully melted to completely clean the panels after a snowfall. There are now solar panels that are self-cleaning. These are very convenient during the winter months. They remove dust, dirt, and debris like windshield wipers. In the future, dust-proof solar panels will be available containing electrodes that are also solar-powered.