Cost and Performance Comparative Model of Dust Mitigation Technologies for Solar PV in Saudi Arabia

International Scientific Journal of Environmental Science
25 May 2015

Solar photovoltaics are rapidly emerging as promising technologies to tackle the world’s energy
challenge. Certain geographic locations with high levels of insolation, while offering vast capacities for
harnessing the world’s available sunshine, face certain climatic challenges. The dust problem, particularly,
a prevalent issue in many of these locations, has posed a serious problem for PV deployment. Module
efficiency has shown to decrease by up to 70% due to dust.

While some research has investigated potential technologies for dust mitigation, not much studied the
impact of implementing them commercially, or took into account climate effects. This paper presents a
dust-mitigation for solar PV model, consisting of a performance component and a financial component, to
compare three main dust-mitigation technologies (electrodynamic screens or EDS; air-blowing
mechanisms; and superhydrophobic nano-coatings) against each other, and against a reference based on
manual cleaning. The model calculates the Levelized Cost Of Energy (LCOE) as an objective metric for
comparison. Saudi Arabia is used as a case study to validate the results, given its unique combination of
enormously high annual insolation and frequent dust storms.

Dust mitigation technologies show major dependence on weather patterns, and increase total power output
dependence on seasonality. Different technologies increase power output disproportionally depending on
the location despite the relative proximity of the test points. In some locations, the annual power production
increases by up to ~17%. Overall, there is a correlation between increased energy production and decreased
LCOE, showing that the increase in annual energy offsets the associated costs. The model is globally
applicable, has the potential of studying additional technologies, and incorporating effects of other aerosols,
making it relevant for any large-scale PV application.

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