You live in your desert home and just spent $30,000 for a solar energy system—when all of a sudden a dust storm comes up and layers your panels with a layer of dust, reducing the electricity output by 40%. You are not very happy and are wondering why you wasted your money. Oh, and I forgot to tell you that there is a drought and water is being rationed. Now you are really peeved. Do you simply wait for the next rain—which could be next year.
Not to fear, help is on the way. According to a report on the Green Prophet, researchers at Boston University have innovated a solution based on electrodynamic screen (EDS) technology. If that sounds complicated, it is, as the report notes that the technology was developed for NASA space missions. This is the way it is supposed to work:
A transparent, electrically-sensitive material is deposited on the panels, or on a transparent plastic sheet covering the panels. When dust concentration (monitored by sensors) reaches a critical level, an electric charge is generated in the material, creating a dust-repelling wave that lifts and pushes away the dust
Using this technology, you can get rid of 95% of the dust within two minutes. Is this a practical solution? It sounds very promising and very practical. As noted by Scientific American, a dust layer of 4 grams per square meter will reduce solar power conversion by 40%. If you live in Arizona, you can expect about 17 grams per square meter per month—so unless you are cleaning your solar modules regularly you can expect much lower electricity outputs from your solar energy system.
The product may not be available for the next dust storm, but it is supposed to be available within a year—possibly just in time for the summer.