New Strip Coating Could Mitigate Snow Piling
A team of researchers from the University of Toledo has reportedly developed a strip coating that causes accumulated snow to slide off solar panels without interfering with their efficiency.
According to a report from The Independent, the new coating could reportedly create a way to passively remove snow from solar panels and allow them to keep generating electricity during harsh weather conditions.
About the Coating
While solar panels can generate electricity on cloudy days, snow cover can completely block their ability to gather any of the sun’s energy, resulting in up to a 12% loss of electricity generation per year in areas with heavy snowfall.
However, the new self-cleaning strip coatings can reportedly be applied to both new and existing solar installations relatively easily.
“The strip coatings apply to the lower edge of the panel, resulting in passive snow removal without requiring any energy to operate,” said Hossein Sojoudi, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering at the University of Toledo.
“Our strip coating does not interfere with absorption of sunlight or panel efficiency at any time, does not cause any partial shading or hotspots on the panel, and does not invalidate module warranty and in fact improves the lifetime of the module.”
Tests in both the U.S. and Japan have reportedly found that panels fitted with the strip had achieved over 5% improved power generation annually.
Solar energy had reportedly accounted for around 3.4% of electricity generation in the United States last year, according to figures from the Energy Information Administration. Appoximately half of the new U.S. electricity-generating capacity in 2023 is expected to be from solar.
“We estimate to reach a production rate of 1 million strip coatings by the end of 2024,” said Dr. Sojoudi.
“Our solution is a game-changing technology that can lead to an additional $150 million in additional annual revenue, across states with heavy snowfall ... Through the help of our strategic partners, we are delivering on the promise of solar energy all year long.”
Working with industry partners, Dr. Sojoudi stated that he expects thousands of strip coatings to be installed across the country by the end of this year.
Similar Solar Panel Coatings
In November 2022, a team from the Indian Institute of Technology Jodhpur reportedly developed a new coating technology that can self-clean solar panel surfaces. According to reports, the coatings are transparent, scalable, durable and superhydrophobic, capable of self-cleaning with very little water and reducing dust accumulation.
The superhydrophobic coating reportedly had excellent self-cleaning properties and exhibits no transmittance or power conversion efficiency loss. Accelerated laboratory-scale tests reportedly showed that the coating also has mechanical and environmental durability.
Ravi K R, Head of Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at IIT Jodhpur, explained that the solar panel manufacturing industry claims to operate at 80% to 90% efficiency for 20 to 25 years. However, dust and sand deposits can reduce performance and, depending on location and climate, solar panels can lose 10% to 40% efficiency within just a few months.
He added that some of the methods currently used to clean the solar panels are expensive, inefficient and have various practical problems in continuous use that can cause irreversible damage.
Looking ahead, the team planned to study the durability of the self-cleaning coating in real-time in different regions of the country, including arid and semi-arid desert regions, coastal regions and rural and urban areas. They also wanted to investigate the various recoating options for damage caused during usage.
Other researchers on the project included Meignanamoorthi G, Project Assistant, and Mohit Singh, Research Scholar and Prime Minister's Research Fellow (PMRF), Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, IIT Jodhpur.
ITT Jodhpur had also reportedly applied for a patent for the coating technology.