Solar panels are becoming more and more popular as a climate-friendly, clean energy source, but their efficiency drops by up to 50 percent when contaminated by dust or dirt. However, a former team of Red Deer Polytechnic engineering technology students has been recognized for solving this common problem.
Former Red Deer Polytechnic engineering technology students Kyle Victor, Carson West and Nathan Crombie have developed a low-maintenance, cost-effective and simple-to-install, fully automated, no-water supply, pneumatic air blast cleaning system with few moving parts. it can work in any climate, adapt to any panel array geometry, and has the potential to work with the same solar panel system it is designed to clean.
The former team was honored as a provincial finalist for the Alberta Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals (ASET) Capstone Project of the Year Award.
In the former team’s prototype, one pneumatic air sprayer was installed at the top of the solar panel and another in the middle. An air compressor with pipes is connected to the sprinklers. An Arduino kit, an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software, is programmed to operate in a set sequence for each sprinkler. When the process starts, the overhead sprayer will spray the air for a few seconds. When dust is removed from the top half of the panel, the top sprinkler turns off and the middle sprinkler turns on for a few seconds to carry the already moving dust from the rest of the panel.
“Our team had two goals for this project. The first was to create an applicable design for both residential and industrial solar panel systems. The second was to ensure that it would be cheaper and more efficient than currently available cleaning systems,” says Victor, a former member of the team. “Our system can clean a solar panel in seconds, unlike other systems where, depending on the location of the panel, that panel may be the last in line waiting to be cleaned and may run for hours at low efficiency.”
“The former Red Deer Polytechnic team should be commended for their clear approach to solving a practical solar energy problem,” said ASET CEO Barry Cavanaugh. “This is an important step forward in improving the efficiency of an important clean energy source and demonstrates the combination of practicality and innovation that characterizes the engineering technology profession.”
The former Red Deer Polytechnic team’s project is one of eight finalists named by ASET for the 2022 Capstone Project Award. The winning project will be announced later this year.
The Capstone Project of the Year Award was established by ASET in 2017 in response to overwhelming member interest in preschool stories about Capstone projects undertaken by teams of engineering technology students from NAIT, SAIT, Red Deer Polytechnic and Lethbridge College. their requirements at the end of the program.