Since starting at Kipp & Zonen and my first encounter with solar energy in 2015 the industry has been booming. Although important strides have been made, the industry continues to struggle with some basics as it develops into maturity.Many practical issues such as “how should I wire my solar panels across the plant?”, “how many pyranometers do I need?” and “when should I clean my solar panels?” are still not well answered. For me, this last question particularly struck a spark of inspiration; there seemed to be room in the market for finding new and simple solutions.
An inspired new product for a growing solar industry problem
Talking to investors, O&M companies, EPC’s and reading more about practical industry topics, the subject of PV panel soiling got my special attention. To clean or not to clean? That was the question. Beautiful in its simplicity, and extremely relevant. Less light reaching the solar cells means less power generated and less revenue.
Complex and expensive systems to determine soiling levels have ruled the market up to now, but most solar energy plants do not have soiling measurements in place. The current two-panel-comparison devices were found to require a lot of maintenance, and did not represent the actual soiling across a large plant. It is only a single spot-measurement, whereas the conditions that promote soiling, such as wind, vary across the solar arrays. This could be it; if Kipp & Zonen could develop a simple, cost-effective alternative that could be widely used, how cool and exciting would that be?
An innovative PV panel soiling monitor with 1% accuracy
With a basic technology approach in mind, my R&D manager and I flew over to Germany the next week to start co-development of a prototype - and in only a few months we had it working. In fact, it worked so well, that it even recognized the remaining marks of a fingerprint after touching the glass surface! Then we knew “Yes, we can!”. We not only had a good soiling indicator, but a new “Kipp-worthy” precision instrument with up to 1% accuracy, and very relevant to industry needs. We decided to go for it!
Challenges along the road
Kipp & Zonen are “Engineers in Light”, so our chosen technical solution was optically based. In order to work properly day and night, the major challenge was to filter out the sunlight coming in through the glass. We solved this with Smart optics and electronics. Then came the last big question, does the technology work with all kinds of sand and dust all over the world? Different chemical compositions, different colours and different grain sizes?
We obtained standard industrial dusts and, due to our global presence and distributor relationships, collected many samples of real-life dust from all over the world. Then we tested, tested and tested again - until we got the right answer. Yes, it works for all kinds of dust, and yes, we can calibrate for it, and yes, we can compensate for the effects that we do not measure directly with the chosen technology. Sometimes, you just turn out to be lucky…
Meet our new addition to the Kipp & Zonen family at Intersolar
I hope to have raised your curiosity to find out more about our new PV soiling monitoring system and hereby warmly invite you to our booth A4.420 at Intersolar Europe in Munich later this month. Come and experience this unique product in an interactive set-up.
I am looking forward to demonstrating our breakthrough innovation to you!