Understanding the Factors that Affect the Utilization of Photovoltaics in High Atmospheric Dust Concentration Regions

  • Zaid M. Tahboub

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Effective capturing of solar energy is of immense importance as part of finding a solution for the ever-increasing demand for power coupled with the depletion of resources of fossil fuels. The location of Masdar city in the UAE is associated with relatively high levels of atmospheric dust concentrations. This causes high rates of dust accumulation on solar collectors, which decreases the total energy yields. Therefore, minimizing the amount of dust that accumulates on top of the solar collectors is of great importance for solar energy utilization in general and for the Masdar Initiative and Masdar City in particular. The objective of this research was to develop a model that describes dust accumulation in order to understand the factors that affect the utilization of PVs in an area with high dust concentrations. We started by developing a simple regression model that describes the maximum power output of a PV, and then using a simple technique we were able to correct for the effect of the incident angle without the need for any experimental setup. Subsequently, we moved on to tackle the problem of dust accumulation by trying to relate the rate of dust accumulation to different weather conditions. Although our data had a limited time resolution, we managed to describe qualitatively the dust accumulation dependence on several weather parameters. We also proposed a new experimental framework that improves the time resolution of our experimental setup that allows collecting the different parameters that need to be studied in order to be able to develop a quantitative model that describes dust accumulation. A model for dust accumulation combined with a model that describes the PV power output will enable us to better predict the power output and energy yields on one hand, and to optimize the cleaning of PV modules on the other. Also such a model will help us in developing functionalized coatings that minimize dust accumulation through identifying and understanding the factors that affect dust accumulation. These functionalized coatings that minimize dust accumulation were investigated as well. An outdoor test for assessing the ability to minimize dust accumulation on PVs of a commercial coating was carried out. Such tests are essential to give us more understanding about the different parameters that need to be taken into account when developing and assessing such coatings.
Date of AwardDec 2011
Original languageAmerican English
SupervisorMatteo Chiesa (Supervisor)


  • Photovoltaic Power Systems
  • Solar Cells

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