The American University of Sharjah (AUS) and the leading international service provider to the energy industry Petrofac have joined forces in order to improve solar farm efficiency.
AUS and Petrofac have created an Internet of Things (IoT) edge device that can remotely evaluate the cleanliness of solar panels. According to the company statement, “Knowing how clean individual panels are is critical for solar plant operators in terms of lowering costs, power production, and allowing preventative maintenance.”
Researchers discovered that two months of soiling would reduce a panel’s power output by 40 percent, with dust being the biggest barrier to efficient solar energy production. However, large-scale cleaning of solar farms is costly, inconvenient, and disruptive to grid security.
Operators can optimize energy generation without the conventional costs associated with panel maintenance by having many edge devices that can detect individual panels that need cleaning.
As per the report, “The edge device continuously measures solar panel performance using open-sourced technology, micro-controllers, and smart sensors. Those responsible for operating the solar farm receive information about the state of panels through a wireless network and cloud-based server, allowing them to see, and act on, the data in real-time.”
The system can detect faults and forecast power output in addition to reporting when panels need to be cleaned. The device can also measure temperature, humidity, and solar radiation. Further, the new technology has potential for widespread use as the industry develops. It’s designed for large-scale solar projects like Abu Dhabi’s Noor Project and Dubai’s Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.
Such technology is especially important for the UAE, which is one of the world’s leading solar energy producers. The country is currently building what will become the world’s largest solar energy plant, located in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
“The generous support of Petrofac through the Research Chair in Renewable Energy makes these important gains in solar energy outputs possible. While abundant sunlight makes the UAE a prime location for solar energy sites, solar energy production in the UAE does face environmental challenges such as humidity, dust, and high temperatures. By mitigating many of these challenges, the edge device we have developed will allow the UAE to maximize the natural advantages it enjoys in solar energy production. By increasing the efficiency of solar panels, the edge device will play a role in meeting the UAE’s renewable energy ambitions and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.”
The multidisciplinary team working on the device includes Dr. Dhaouadi, Dr. Imran Zualkernan from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, along with laboratory instructor, Salsabeel Shapsough, and research assistant, Mohannad Takrouri.