SOLplus - Improved Energy Efficiency of Solar PV Systems via Low Surface Energy Coatings

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Wolfson Sch of Mech, Elec & Manufac Eng

Abstract

Recent reports indicate that a significant impact of accumulation of dust and other debris on the surface of photovoltaic modules causes a decrease in the incoming solar irradiance, with typical power losses of 10-15%, or even up to 50% in some cases reported. Durable highly repellent coatings based on advanced, nanostructured, low energy materials can provide a permanent solution to prevent the accumulation of dirt on the transparent top layer of a PV system. The primary objective of the SOLplus project is to determine the technological, commercial, and economic viability of such a low surface energy coating for use in the solar PV market. The main technology and commercial objectives for this product will be to deliver a durable coating that prevents the accumulation of dirt/dust on glass and plastic solar substrates, is cost-effective in its application method, and demonstrates real and tangible benefits to the end user (maintenance-free and avoidance of expensive cleaning procedures). Technology validation for the solar PV market and a refinement of our assessment of the market opportunity during the project will allow for a better focus on the market needs

Planned Impact

IMPACT SUMMARY

The market for solar modules has increased by 35% pa compound over the past 15 years. There are several drivers that account for this extraordinary growth including increasing energy demand, security of supply of fossil fuels as well as concerns over global warming and climate change. The industry produced 49GW of photovoltaic modules in 2014 and is forecast to reach an output of 100GW by 2018.

The accumulation of dust and other debris on the surface of photovoltaic modules leads to a significant loss in the absorbed solar irradiance and lower power output. Losses can be 10-15%, or even up to 50% in some cases . Durable, highly repellent coatings based on advanced, nanostructured, low energy materials can provide a solution to prevent the accumulation of dirt on the transparent top layer of a PV system. The primary objective of the SOLplus project is to determine the technological, commercial, and economic viability of such a low surface energy coating for use in solar PV. CREST at Loughborough University is well placed to assist the development. The research team at CREST has developed broadband anti-reflection (AR) coatings that increase the light absorbed in the devices and hence increase the photocurrent by ~4%. It is essential that the broadband AR is treated with a super-hydrophobic coating to revent soiling that would otherwise negate the AR effect. A low energy coating is beneficial on solar cover glass even without the addition of an AR coating.

The collaborators in this project are the immediate beneficiaries. The Solar Cloth Company is an End User able to define performance and durability objectives. An anti-soiling coating on its flexible photovoltaics on structural fabrics will drastically reduce the cost of maintenance of deploying its power producing product over local authority car parks. Cornelius Specialities Ltd is a specialist coatings company capable of developing surface coatings chemistry while Opus Materials Technologies Ltd., has the marketing expertise to address and grow the market. TWI has deep knowledge of
hydrophobic coating technology and CREST has the analytical capability to measure overall performance and durability. This consortium contains the mix of skills required to deliver and exploit this multidisciplinary project. It also represents a UK supply chain capable of delivering the technology and also capable of addressing the world-wide market.

CREST will ensure that IP protection has been obtained prior to any public disclosure. CREST is in an excellent position to disseminate the results of the project. Loughborough University leads the EPSRC SuperSolar Hub which now has almost
500 Network members. Professor Walls is the Director of the Hub and Principal Investigator on this project. The Hub organizes events which provide venues for dissemination and networking in the UK. Walls is also a member of the Solar Energy Special Interest Group (SESSIG) which encourages industrial development in solar energy. He is also a member of the DECC UK PV strategy group and co-chair of DECC's Task force on PV Innovation.

The CREST team attend the IEEE Specialist Photovoltaics Conference (PVSC). This is an important PV forum attracting prominent researchers from research Institutions and Industrial R&D organisations. It is the perfect venue for dissemination and often leads to the development of commercial opportunities. Walls is a member of the International Advisory Board for the IEEE PVSC. CREST has established important relationships with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) which has connections with PV module manufacturers worldwide. The link that CREST has developed with NREL will be
useful to its industrial partners both technically and commercially. The commercial exploitation of the project outcomes will be the responsibility of the three industrial partners. CREST will assist this activity through its worldwide network of contacts.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We have developed and tested a hydrophobic coating with a water contact angle >110 degrees. The coating does not absorb incoming light. The durability of the coating has been tested using a battery of techniques including damp heat, cyclic humidity, abrasion, sand abrasion etc... The coating is close to commercialisation under the trade name 'Solar Sharc".
Exploitation Route The hydrophobic coating is close to commercialisation.
Sectors Chemicals,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

URL https://solarsharc.com/
 
Description The hydrophobic coatings developed in the project will be manufactured by Cornelius Specialities Ltd and marketed by Opus Materials Technologies Ltd. We have established testing protocols to assess hydrophobic coatings on solar modules. The durability of the coating has improved dramatically. Opus Materials Technologies are preparing to commercialise the coating using the trade name 'Solar Sharc'.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Electronics,Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Member of the Energy committee of the Institute of Physics
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact The Energy committee of the institute of Physics organises events to disseminate latest energy related research.
 
Description Member of the Solar commision
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description A National Thin-Film Cluster Facility for Advanced Functional Materials
Amount £460,998 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/M022900/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2015 
End 08/2020
 
Description Flexible Solar Photovoltaics For Commercial Roof Tops And Rural Communities In Malaysia 
Organisation National Tenaga University
Country Malaysia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Development of Solution processed CIGS PV on lightweight and flexible substrates
Collaborator Contribution Performance assessment in tropical climate conditions in Malaysia
Impact Joint proposal to Newton Fund
Start Year 2015
 
Description SOLplus - Improved Energy Efficiency of Solar PV Systems via Low Surface Energy Coatings 
Organisation Opus Technologies Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Assessment of performance and durability of hydrophobic coatings for PV modules.
Collaborator Contribution Formulation of silica based hydrophobic coatings. Other partners are The Solar Cloth Company, Cornelius Specialities and TWI
Impact Product close to commercialisation
Start Year 2015
 
Description SOLplus partnership 
Organisation Cornelius Specialties Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution CREST at Loughborough University has developed testing protocols to measure the performance and durabilityof hydrophobic coatings applied to cover glass on solar modules.
Collaborator Contribution TWI are developing novel hydrophobic coatings for use on the cover glass of solar modules. Hydrophobic coatings will reduce soiling and help maintain power output. They also make the solar cover glass easier to clean. Cornelius Specialities Ltd are scaling up the production of the new coating solution. Opus Technologies Ltd are engaging with the O&M world-wide market for solar module maintenance.
Impact A novel hydrophobic coating with anti-reflection properties has been developed and is close to commercialisation. Loughborough University has developed testing protocols for this new type of coating. Results will be presented at the 44th IEEE PVSC conference in Washington DC.
Start Year 2016
 
Description SOLplus partnership 
Organisation Opus Technologies Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution CREST at Loughborough University has developed testing protocols to measure the performance and durabilityof hydrophobic coatings applied to cover glass on solar modules.
Collaborator Contribution TWI are developing novel hydrophobic coatings for use on the cover glass of solar modules. Hydrophobic coatings will reduce soiling and help maintain power output. They also make the solar cover glass easier to clean. Cornelius Specialities Ltd are scaling up the production of the new coating solution. Opus Technologies Ltd are engaging with the O&M world-wide market for solar module maintenance.
Impact A novel hydrophobic coating with anti-reflection properties has been developed and is close to commercialisation. Loughborough University has developed testing protocols for this new type of coating. Results will be presented at the 44th IEEE PVSC conference in Washington DC.
Start Year 2016
 
Description SOLplus partnership 
Organisation TWI ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution CREST at Loughborough University has developed testing protocols to measure the performance and durabilityof hydrophobic coatings applied to cover glass on solar modules.
Collaborator Contribution TWI are developing novel hydrophobic coatings for use on the cover glass of solar modules. Hydrophobic coatings will reduce soiling and help maintain power output. They also make the solar cover glass easier to clean. Cornelius Specialities Ltd are scaling up the production of the new coating solution. Opus Technologies Ltd are engaging with the O&M world-wide market for solar module maintenance.
Impact A novel hydrophobic coating with anti-reflection properties has been developed and is close to commercialisation. Loughborough University has developed testing protocols for this new type of coating. Results will be presented at the 44th IEEE PVSC conference in Washington DC.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Appearances on Radio Wales, Radio Humberside and Radio 4 News 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Reaction to the suggestion that solar panels should face East/West to avoid a power spike at midday. Re-assurance that facing south maximises the feed-in tariff.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Feature on Radio 4 Tonight programme. 13th February 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Radio 4 feature on latest developments in Solar
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Member of the Energy commitee of the Institute of Physics 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Energy committee of the IOP organises events of interest to the scientific and engineering community concerned with Enery generation and use.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017,2018,2019
 
Description Member of the IEEE EDS Technical Committee on Photovoltaic devices. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The IEEE EDS Technical Committee on Photovoltaic devices.is an International body concerned with standards for photovoltaic (solar panel) modules.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Member of the Ion and Plasma Surface Interactions Group commitee of the Institute of Physics 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The commitee organises events for academia and industry including the annual 'Advances in Photovoltaics' meeting at the IOP.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Member of the Solar Commision 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The Solar Commision has been formed to identify R&D prioriries for solar to stimulate further deployment
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019