CEE Seminar: The 10 Billion Dollar Impact of Air Pollution to Solar Energy

Apr 16

Tuesday, April 16, 2024 - 9:44PM


Michael Valerino, Duke University, Civil and Environmental Engineering PhD Student

Particulate matter (PM) refers to solid or liquid particles suspended in the atmosphere. These particles, which occur naturally (e.g. wind-blown dust, volcanic eruptions, ocean wave spray) and anthropogenically (vehicle exhaust, industrial emissions, construction activity) have wide reaching impacts to our health, climate, and even our renewable energy production. Deposition of PM on a solar panel surface can create energy losses in excess of 40%. This effect, known as soiling, is a roadblock to a global renewable future and is responsible for an estimated monetary loss of 10 billion USD annually.

In order to overcome this challenge and ensure economically feasible operation of solar installations, panel cleanings must be performed. This process is costly, as is the energy loss due to soiling. Finding the optimum point between cleaning costs, and energy loss due to soiling, is necessary for profitable operation. To do this, soiling processes needs to be understood by investigating the size and composition of the PM, meteorological impacts to the deposition process, and the corresponding energy losses.