Effects of soiling on photovoltaic (PV) modules in the Atacama Desert

R. R. Cordero, A. Damiani, D. Laroze, S. MacDonell, J. Jorquera, E. Sepúlveda, S. Feron*, P. Llanillo, F. Labbe, J. Carrasco, J. Ferrer, G. Torres

*Corresponding author for this work

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Soiling by dry deposition affects the power output of photovoltaic (PV) modules, especially under dry and arid conditions that favor natural atmospheric aerosols (wind-blown dust). In this paper, we report on measurements of the soiling effect on the energy yield of grid-connected crystalline silicon PV modules deployed in five cities across a north-south transect of approximately 1300 km in the Atacama Desert ranging from latitude 18°S to latitude 30°S. Energy losses were assessed by comparing side-by-side outputs of four co-planar PV modules. Two of the PV modules of the array were kept clean as a control, while we allowed the other two to naturally accumulate soiling for 12 months (from January 2017 to January 2018). We found that the combination of high deposition rates and infrequent rainfalls led to annual energy losses that peaked at 39% in the northern coastal part of the desert. In contrast, annual energy losses of 3% or less were measured at relatively high-altitude sites and also at locations in the southern part of the desert. For comparison, soiling-induced annual energy losses of about 7% were measured in Santiago, Chile (33°S), a major city with higher rainfall frequency but where urban pollution plays a significant role.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13943
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1-Dec-2018
Externally publishedYes

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