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I've been trying to build products to start my own solar company. A common issue with solar panels is dust accumulation, which reduces the already low efficiency even further. I've been working on creating Solar powered Street Lights, hypothetically with vent design that avoid/reduce dust accumulation. My major being in Electronic Engineering , I've the circuit and connections part covered.

Is it possible to design vents along the solar side of such lights that could use air stream over highways that prevents dust accumulation so as to reduce the need of regular maintenance?

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Our panels stay relatively dust free as they are at an angle of 70 degrees.

This means the rain flows off nicely taking dust with it and the snow slides off as well also taking dust with it.

Having checked the panels regularly over the years (installed 13 years ago) we have not cleaned them ourselves at all - nature has done it for us.

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    $\begingroup$ A 70 degree angle seems steep, wouldn't that also cut down on time/amount of incident sunlight? Or is it a special use case like hilly areas? $\endgroup$
    – RICOSHEIKH
    Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ @RICOSHEIKH depends what you plan for. Given the insolation in summer cf winter we used an angle to maximise the winter production as summer is too easy. Also the panels are part of the roof and the kWh purchase price is higher for fully integrated. Need to make sure of all the regulations when planning :) $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 15:45
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Given you are contemplating manufacturing solar panels, as an alternative, may I suggest you consider using something like self-cleaning glass and market your product as either "Smart Solar Panels" or "Clean Solar Panels".

Self-cleaning glass has a coating that helps to break down organic material so that water can remove it as it sheets off the glass. This low-maintenance glass is “sprinkled” with metallic titanium dioxide atoms during the glass manufacturing process. The coating forms a microscopic layer on one side of the glass. When the coated side of the glass is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, it chemically reacts to cause organic material on the glass to decompose. Even when the sky is overcast, the coating keeps working, because more than 80 percent of UV rays still penetrate the clouds.

When glass is coated in titanium dioxide, it makes water move faster. Instead of beading up, the water sheets off and takes the decomposed dirt away. Low-maintenance glass is hydrophilic, which means it pushes water away, making low-maintenance glass a long-term solution compared to aftermarket chemical coatings. These products are hydrophobic, which means they repel water.

A repellent product will degrade over time, but titanium dioxide remains for the life of the window. Titanium dioxide coating reduces the need to use chemical cleaning agents to clean the glass of most stains.

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  • $\begingroup$ And will that coating reduce the transmissivity of the glass? $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 17:29
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Wind will not stop collecting dust on the panels, due to the effect of the boundary layer. The speed of the layer of a stream of air next to a stationary surface is zero.

Otherwise, people would take their cars instead of car wash to a race track! To have the dust blasted away.

seasonal rain will clean them.

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Since you seem to be designing a product a word of caution:

Of course it would be possible to design vents that use the air currents to keep the dust off. However, you will probably end up needing to be looking into many parameters (e.g. wind direction and speed at the installation area, wind "shading", solar shading of the vents, size of dust and particulates etc). This multitude of parameters will make the product you are designing creating, optimal only for a small subcase, so it might not be worth it.

Additionally, depending on the implementation it might be still required to cleanup the panels every once in a while. So, you probably need to make it removable (because its much easier and faster to clean a flat surface).

Bottom line is that, Solar Mikes solution, is probably the best generic option.

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    $\begingroup$ To add to this, the nature of the dust particles also needs to be considered. If the solar panels are to be located along side, or near, a major highway with heavy traffic diesel particulate matter & other "sticky" products of internal combustion engines would make such dust easier to adhere to the solar panel surface & more difficult to remove. In such locations air current make not be sufficient. Some form of washing may be needed. Some electricity utilities use helicopter mounted high pressure water jets to clean power line insulators to prevent pole top fires. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 17:11

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