The Future of Nano Coating Solar Street Lights

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Courtesy of Greenshine New Energy LLC

Although it is commonly thought that shade is the worst threat to a solar panel’s productivity, dirt can be an even greater problem. As dirt, dust and debris like bird poop collect on its surface, the productivity of a panel is markedly reduced over time unless cleaned regularly.

While doing such maintenance might be easy for small, compact array, the time and labor it takes to keep widely distributed arrays—like the ones on solar street lights—is another barrier to widespread to the distribution of solar. The appeal of solar street lights in rural or remote areas comes from the fact that they do not require a built infrastructure to support them.  However, due to the cost of maintaining the panels that keep the streetlights on, solar streetlights end up not being nearly as effective once they are deployed.

Enter nano coating. By spreading microscopic layers of hydrophobic, low-friction material over the solar panel, it becomes self-cleaning. Water from rain forms droplets on the panel’s surface and slide off immediately, instead of sitting on top of the panel’s surface and scattering light away. The low-friction function of the coating prevents dirt from sticking to the glass on the outside of the panel, allowing it to go much longer than three months, which is the recommended time to allow between cleanings.

The improved efficiency of the panels in addition to the reduction of needed maintenance means that nano-coated solar streetlights can take advantage of sunny environments that in the past proved difficult for them to function. Deserts receive a lot of solar energy, but sand is a constant threat to productivity. Large desert arrays are constantly wiped off to keep wind-blown sand from collecting on the thousands of panels people rely on for power. Nano-coating solar panels can be done retroactively, so this technique will not only help increase the efficiency of new solar panels, it has the potential to increase the output of solar panel currently powering streetlights. Once the coating is added, it acts as a protective layer to repel dirt and bird poop, with the potential to increase the solar panel’s conversion efficiency by 20 percent and extend the life of the light.   

Kevin Laurent, a senior engineer for Greenshine explained, ' Traditionally, to maintain optimum efficiency, the solar panels would have had to be manually cleaned every few months using commercial detergents - a costly and time consuming effort, with environmental consequences. With this new layer of protection, a very thin sheet will repel dirt thereby cleaning the panel naturally.'

Nano-coating solar panels are not standard practice—yet. While it will take time and effort to retrofit panels already deployed, the technology has the potential to change how solar panels are manufactured in the future. Soon, all solar panels may come equipped with self-cleaning abilities.

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