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1st International Conference on Electrical and Information Technologies ICEIT'2015

Real-Time Study on the Effect of Dust Accumulation

on Performance of Solar PV Panels in Malaysia

Shaharin A. Sulaiman Fiseha M. Guangul

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS
31750 Tronoh, Perak, Malaysia 31750 Tronoh, Perak, Malaysia
shaharin@petronas.com.my fiseha.guangul@petronas.com.my

Mohamad Nur Hidayat Mat Mohammed A. Bou-Rabee

Department of Mechanical Engineering, PAAET, Department of Electrical Engineering,
Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS College of Technological Studies,
31750 Tronoh, Perak, Malaysia Kuwait City, Kuwait
mohd.eddie91@gmail.com m.rabee@paaet.edu.kw

Abstract- Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems is a proffUsmg 53% in 2030, with 70% of the growth coming from
method of generating electrical power from renewable energy in developing countries.
Malaysia. However, light obstruction on the solar panel due to dust
accumulation can significantly influence the performance and In Malaysia, the application of green technology is seen as
efficiency of the system, and thus can affect the cash flow of the one of the sensible solutions adopted by many countries in
system operators. Despite the problem, only little studies have been overcoming issues pertaining to shortage in energy supply and
conducted on the nature of dust accumulation on solar PV panels. also the environment. It was reported that among all the
Many of the studies involved imitation of dust for in laboratory renewable energy sources, solar energy would be the most
tests, which could not assess the actual phenomenon. The main prospective one in Malaysia [3-4]. The government has
objective of this work was to study the effect of dust accumulation promoted a variety of energy related policies and tried to
on the performance of solar PV panel in Malaysia. This work sustain the energy demand. In the Eight Malaysia Plan
would enable appropriate scheduling for cleaning of the panels. Malaysian Government fixed a target of generating power
The study was conducted on real-time basis on a building's roof. from renewable energy at 5% of the total energy mix in 2001-
Measurements of irradiation, power output and the corresponding 2005, although the achievement was only around 1%. In 2006,
mass of dust collected were performed on hourly, daily, weekly and the target was maintained at 5% in a newer government plan,
monthly basis. It was found from the study that the system's but the response was not positive probably due to to the fact
performance could drop by about 6% annually. On the
that energy has been highly subsidized in the country [2]. In
maintenance aspect, in order to sustain economical operation, the
one of the government's latest efforts, the public (individuals
cleaning interval should be every two months for industrial-scale
or companies) can sell produced electrical power from
systems that produce a minimum of 100 MWhlday. The interval
would be shorter (i.e. one month) for smaller systems (residential).
renewable energy sources to Distribution Licensees (DL) like
Tenaga National Berhad under the Feed-in Tariff (FiT)
Keywords- dust; photovoltaic; efficicency; maintenance scheme that is governed by an appointed agency [5]. Of those,
solar power has been the most popular system of choice for
I.INTRODUCTION various reasons.
Most of the electrical power generated around the world is Solar PV system is expensive and its life-span is limited to
mainly derived from non-renewable energy sources, especially about 25 years due to cracks in the glass, shattered glass and
fossil fuels. However, these resources are non-perishable and corroded inter-cell tracks [6]. Hence, deterioration in the
would be depleted at some time in the future [1]. Therefore, efficiency of a solar PV panel throughout its life cycle is not
alternative sources of energy, which are renewable and desired. A major reason for the drop of efficiency of solar PV
environmentally friendly, are required. Solar energy is a panels is the accumulation of dust on the panel. Other reasons
promising clean energy sources of the future. Among the may include deposition of bird droppings and water-stains of
advantages of solar energy are it is long lasting, can be used salt [7]. The nature of the problem may vary by geographical
almost anywhere and it provides cost effective solutions to locations. For example, in Malaysia the humid ambient
energy problems. According to the International Energy condition promotes growth of fungus and moss on the PV
Agency [2], the global energy consumption will increase by panel. Such reduction in efficiency would make solar PV
systems unattractive to the market. Dust settlement, mainly

978-1-4799-7479-5/15/$31.00 2015 IEEE 269

1st International Conference on Electrical and Information Technologies ICEIT'2015

relies on the dust properties which are chemical properties, A. Location ofExperiment
size, shape and weight as well as on the environmental Shown in Figure 1 are the experiment system, which were
conditions which are site-specific factors, environmental mounted on the roof of a building at a location about 200 km
features and weather conditions. The surface fmish of solar to the North of Kuala Lumpur. The ground elevation of the
panel, tilt angle, humidity and wind speed also affect the dust location was about 60 m above the sea level. The building's
accumulation on the surface [8]. height was approximately 40 m. In general, the site of study
There have been many studies that investigated the effect was surrounded by rainforest away from the city, and thus
of dust on solar cells. A wide range of reduction in dusts generated from human activities could be regarded as
perfonnance was reported, including the one in the United minimum.
States which recorded a 4.7 % degradation in collector's
perfonnance as a result of dust deposition [9]. In another work
throughout a 6-month period in Saudi Arabia, the degradation
was reported to be significantly higher; i.e. at 40% [10]. The
report was comparable to another work also in Saudi Arabia
which reported a 32% reduction for an eight-month study
period [6]. These imply serious degradation of performance in
solar PV performance in the desert, at which the energy
potential is one of the highest in the world. In a work in
Kuwait, the reduction in performance of solar panel varied
between 17% and 65%, depending on the tilt angle [1]. In a
different study in Egypt reductions in performance of up to
65.8% were reported for an exposure period of six
months [11]. In Thailand, an 11% reduction in transmittance
was reported in a one-month study [12]. Generally, all the
reported works only focused on degradation of solar panel J) Fig. 1 Experimental setup on the rooftop at the site of study

perfonnance over a period of time instead of quantifiying dust

accumulation on the panels. B. Experimental Setup
Three mono-crystalline PV panels and three dummy glass
The dust size also has significant impact on the
panels were used in the study. The PV modules were
performance of the solar PV panel system. Mani and Pillai [7]
connected to a Midi Data Logger while the glass panels had
conducted an experiment that entirely used artificial dusts
solarimeters that comprised of a light dependant resistor
namely limestone, cement and carbon particulates under
(LDR) probes underneath the surface; each was connected to
constant halogen lamps. They reported that the finest
an Arduino microcontroller. The two sets of glass panels were
particulates had the most deteriorating effect on the PV
used for comparison of solar irradiation under clean and dirty
efficiency as compared to the coarser ones. A similar study
conditions on hourly, daily, weekly and monthly modes. The
was conducted using different sizes of artificial dusts (mud
clean panel was always cleaned at an interval of 5 minutes for
and talcum) [13]. The results supported the findings by Mani
hourly mode, and 30 minutes on daily, weekly and monthly
and Pillai on the effect of dust on perfonnance of PV systems.
modes. The dirty panels were cleaned at different time
In addition, the type of dust may also affect the performance
intervals depending on the mode of tests.
of PV power generation systems. For example, in a study [14]
on the influence of dirt accumulation of the performance of Figure 2 shows schematic of the experimental setup. The
PV panels it was found that moss reduced the power output by system consisted of six panels, which included three solar PV
about 70%. Out of their curiosity, the authors [14] discovered panels (labeled as No. 1) and three dummy glass panels
that the presence of water droplets on solar panels had (labeled as No. 2). Each panel was located side by side in
insignificqant impact on the PV performance. order to minimize differences in irradiation and amount of
dust accumulated. The solarimeters were located underneath
In the present work, the effect of dust accumulation on
glass panels No. 3 and the power meter was used to measure
perfonnance of solar PV system in Malaysia was studied. The
the electric power generated by PV panels No. 5. The
outcome of this work would enable optimum scheduling for
measured electrical power output and irradiation were
cleaning of the panels against dust. The study was conducted
recorded by a computer No. 4, which was located in a shaded
on a building's roof based on actual dust accumulated from
area approximately 3 m away from the closest panels.
the environment for a maximum period of three months .
The collectors were mounted horizontally (0 tilting angle)
I. METHODOLOGY based on a report by Khatib et al. [15], with a consideration
In the present study, important parameters related to the that the study was conducted in the months of April to August
deterioration of performance of solar PV were measured, for maximum solar irradiation. The solar PV panels were
namely solar irradiation, electrical power output and mass of mounted one meter above the floor. Tempered glass was used
the dust accumulated on the panels. A solarimeter and a power as the dummy panel since the upper layer of the commercial
meter, which were connected to a data logger, were the main solar cells was also made of tempered glass. The thickness of
instruments used in the study. the glass dununy panels was 6 mm.

1st International Conference on Electrical and Information Technologies ICEIT'2015

minimum on a short period basis for the environment chosen,

though this may probably be different at sites such as
industrial area, sand desert and windy seaside.
A. Hourly Test
Figure 4 shows histogram of the final accumulation of
mass of dust and [mal reductions of output power and
irradiaton for the hourly tests. The reductions in output power
and irradiation were measured by differentiating the measured
final values obtained using the clean panel with those of the
dusty panel; these were applicable also to the daily, weekly,
Fig. 2 Framework installation of solar PV panel system
monthly tests. The three tests show nearly the same results
C. Types ofMeasurements although Test 1 displays the greatest reductions in output
In each experiment, the electrical power output and solar power and irradiation. As anticipated, based on previous a
irradiation were measured simultaneously. The clean panels previous studies [13,14], the greater the amount of dust
were used as a reference to determine performance drop of the collected, the greater were the reductions in output power and
dusty panels. Five different tests were conducted; i.e. the irradiation due to obscuration of sun light by the dusts on the
hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and three-month tests. In the panels. Overall, with an average accumulated dust of about
hourly test, measurements were taken throughout the day from 0.022 g per 0.01 m2, the average of drop in the electrical
lOam to 6 pm, with the dusty panels cleaned hourly and the power output was about 0.05 %. The average drop in
the reference (clean) panels cleaned at every 5 minutes. The irradiation was about 0.01%.
procedures for conducting all the tests were the same as that 0.1 0.028
for the hourly test, except that the time interval for cleaning _ Power c:::::::J Irradiation - Mass of Dust

was different. In the daily test, the panels were cleaned every 0.1
c 0.026
day, prior to the start of the next test. The same was applied .
'0 0.1
for the weekly and monthly tests.


o<! 0.1 :
0.022 ::l
0 -0
The results obtained from the experiment are presented <l. 0.0 .....
. !: V>
in this section by hour, day, week, month and quarter (three 0.020 V>
c '"
0 0.0
months). It was observed that during the measurements that
there was no rain or haze, which could significantly affect "0
., 0.0
consistency of measurements that were repeated. Shown in
Figure 3 are typical variations of the electrical power output 0.0

and solar irradiation with time for the hourly test between
0.0 0.014
10.00 am and 6.00 pm. The graphs show results for the clean
2 3
panel (continuous lines) and the dusty panel (dashed lines).

60 400
Fig. 4 Distribution of final accumulations of mass of dust and final reduction
of power and irradiaton for the hourly tests
B. Daily Test
Shown in Figure 5 are distributions of the final

accumulation of mass of dust and final reductions of output
::l i
0 power and irradiaton, which were measured on daily basis.
30 200
lii .
;:: '" The average mass of dust accumulated for hourly test was
about 0.025 g per 0.01 m2. Consequently, the average
<l. 150
-- Clean - Power 100 reduction in the electrical power output was about 0.5% and
----- Dirt - Power that for irradiation was about 0.4%. A similar trend of results
-- Clean - Irradiation 50
as that observed in the hourly tests are displayed in Figure 5,
----- Dirt - Irradiation
0 0 in which their differences are small. The reductions in output
10 11 12 13 power and irradiation are also shown to be directly
Time (hours) proportional with the amount of dust accumulated on the
Fig. 3 Typical variation of output electrical power and irradiation with time
C. Weekly Test
Generally, the measured output power and irradiation are Distributions of the final accumulation of mass of dust and
shown to be slightly lower than those obtained using the clean [mal reductions of output power and irradiaton on weekly
panel. The trends are the same for the two other hourly tests. basis are shown in Figure 6. The average mass of dust
Clearly, Figure 3 implies that dust accumulation was accumulated for hourly test was only about 0.03 g per 0.01 m2.

1st International Conference on Electrical and Information Technologies ICEIT'2015

With such an amount of dust collected on the panel, the 2.0 0.044

resulting average reduction in the electrical power output was _ Power c:::::J Irradiation -- Mass of Dust
about 1.1% and that for irradiation was about 0.9%. As c 0.042
expected, the reductions in output power and irradiation are ., 1.6
also shown to be directly proportional with the amount of dust
1.4 0.040

accumulated on the panel. o<! :

v 1.2 t;
0.038 :l
0.8 0.028

0 "0
_ Power c:::::J Irradiation -- Mass of Dust
0.8 ro
0.7 0
0 0.027 :2:
., B
'" :::>
0.6 0.034
'0 0.6
0.026 0.4
o<! 0.5 : 0.032
v t;
:l 0.2

0 "0
0.4 0.025
'0 0.0 0.030

ro 3
0 0.3 :2: Test
B 0.024


'" 0.2 Fig. 7 Distribution of final accumulations of mass of dust and final reduction
0.023 of power and irradiaton for the monthly tests

E. Overall Trend
0.0 0.022
1 2 3 Shown in Figure 8 is histogram for the average mass of
Test dust accumulated in the five types of tests using the 0.01 m2
panels. It is shown in the figure that the dust collection was
Fig. 5 Distribution of final accumulations of mass of dust and final reduction
of power and irradiaton for the daily tests
quick on the first day but then increased gradually until a few
months. The observation, which was consistent after three
tests, implied that the recently clean glass surface could retain
dust better than a dirty one. No clear reason could be proposed
1.4 0.034 on the ability of clean glass panel to accununulate dust at the
_ Power c:::::J Irradiation -- Mass of Dust fastest rate.

c 1.2
.0 0.05
., 0.032
'0 0.042

o<! :
v 0.030 t;
0.8 :l 1;1 0.03

0 "0
..... ""


.!: V>
c ro 0.02
:2: ::1
., 0.01

Hou rly Daily Weekly Monthly 3 Months

0.0 0.024 Test

2 3
Fig. 8 Mass of dust accumulated for different test durations

Fig. 6 Distribution of final accumulations of mass of dust and final reduction Figure 9 shows histogram for the reduction in electrical
of power and irradiaton for the weekly tests power output as a result of dust accumulation for different test
durations. The histogram shows that the electrical power
D. Monthly Test output reduces slowly from hourly to three-month test. For
The distributions of results as measured on monthly basis example, the average reduction for the three-month test is
are shown in Figure 7. The average mass of dust accumulated 0.85% (2.54% divided by two), which is lower as compared to
for hourly test was about 0.038 g per 0.01 m2 Consequently, 1.57% for the monthly test. Similarly, the average for 90 days
the average reduction in the electrical power output was about or three months would be 0.03% which is lower as compared
1.5% and that for irradiation was about 1.2%. A similar trend to 0.57% for the daily test. In short, the results show that the
of results as that observed in Figures 4 to 6 are displayed in rate of reduction in electrical power output reduces with time.
Figure 7.

1st International Conference on Electrical and Information Technologies ICEIT'2015

3 .0 ,-
From Eq. (2), one would be able to predict for example the
2 . 54
amount of dust collected within a year or 365 days. In this

work, the amount of dust collected after a year would be
-5 2 .0 0.0484 g or 4.84 g/m2. This would enable the owner or
operator to schedule for cleaning of panels in ensuring
optimum power generation. The projection is made with the

1.0 assumption that the weather and other conditions affecting

a: 0. 5
dust accumulation are constant. More importantly, it must be
emphasized that the trend may be different for different
O.O +-- -
o.os geographical locations.
Hou rly Daily Weekly Monthly 3 Months

Fig. 9 Reduction in electrical power output due to dust accumulation for

different test durations -
F. Projection ofPerformance .., 0.040
The results in Figures 8 and 9 were analyzed on average E

basis for better understanding of the trend of dust :::

'" 0.030
accumulation and deterioration of output power. This was :J

done by obtaining day average for the weekly, monthly and 3- .,

month measurements; e.g. the monthly data was divided by ., O 119
30. Shown in Figure 10 is the variation of average daily "e- mproj = 0.024 D .
accumulation of dust with day, which was determined from
the daily, weekly, monthly and 3-month data. Also shown in
Figure 10 is the curve that fit the data points, for which power 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400
curve fitting was used and given by:

ave = 0 0247D-0881
(1) Fig. II Projected dust accumulation over days after cleaning of panel

where mave is the daily average of mass of dust collected on

the 0.01 m2 panel and D is the number of days from the start
of measurements with the panel cleaned. Figure 10 clearly 0.6

shows that the rate dust accumulation slows down with time -;;:
'" Daily
and can be projected using Eqn. (1). 0.5
:;: tl.Pave = O.5601D-o.677
0.030 0

-;;: B-
'" 0


1 .!:
mave= 0.0247 D-0.88
"0 0

'" 0.020 "B
E .,

0:: Weekly
U .,
0.015 ""



.;0 0.010
., Weekly 0
'" 0 20 40 60 80 100

Monthly Days
0.000 Fig. 12 Variation of daily average reduction in output power with days
0 20 40 60 80 100

Fig. 10 Variation of average daily dust accumulated with days

A projection of dust collection is shown in Figure 11 by

using curve fitting onto the actual mass of dust collected in
this study. The mass of dust shown is specific for the 0.01 m2
panel. The projected mass of duct is given by:

mproj = O.024Do119 (2)

1st International Conference on Electrical and Information Technologies ICEIT'2015

4.0 [5] Sustainable Energy Development Authority Malaysia

( SEDA),http://seda.gov.my/ accessed on 28 October 2014

a; 3.5
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QI 1.0
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'e- =


0.5 [9] H. Hottel, and B. Woertz, "Performance of Flat-Plate Solar

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Fig. 13 Projected reduction in output ower over days after cleaning of panel
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The authors would like to express sincere gratitude to [12] G. Mastekbayeva, and S. Kumar, "Effect of Dust on the
Mr. Fahmi Ramely for providing constructive advices and Transmittance of Low Density Polyethylene Glazing in a
valuable assistance in the experimental work. Tropical Climate," Solar Energy,68,135-41,2000.

[13] S.A Sulaiman, H.H. Hussain, N.S.H.N Leh,. and

M.S.I.Razali, "Effects of Dust on the Performance of PV
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