Description: The retention of particulate contamination on the surface of flat-plate photovoltaic devices is adversely affecting electrical performance of outdoor-exposed modules. The results of an experimental study being performed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Low-Cost Solar Array Project to characterize and understand the effects of outdoor contaminants on sensitive optical surfaces of flat-plate photovoltaic modules and cover materials are described. Comparative electrical and optical performance data from photovoltaic modules and materials subjected to outdoor exposure at field test sites throughout the United States have been collected and examined. The results show significant time- and site-dependence. During periods when natural removal processes do not dominate, the rate of particulate contamination accumulation appears to be largely material-independent. The effectiveness of natural removal processes, especially rain, is strongly material-dependent. Glass and acrylic top-cover materials retain fewer particles than silicone rubber does. Side-by-side outdoor exposure testing for long duration is presently the most effective means of evaluating soiling differences between materials. Changes in spectral transmission as a function of time and location and limited scattering data are presented.
Date: November 1, 1980
Creator: Hoffman, A.R. & Maag, C.R.
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