The solar panel cleaning process isn't easy. In order to keep panels running at maximum efficiency, owners have to give arrays deep cleanings with water and soap on a regular basis. The cleaning process is difficult enough for home and business owners, but keeping desert-bound solar arrays clean is a headache of monumental proportions. But what if solar panels could clean themselves?
The same technology used to keep NASA's Mars rover robots clean could be used for self-cleaning solar panels, according to BBC News . Instead of relying on humans to scrub down panels, the self-cleaning technology uses an electrically sensitive coating to detect when dust levels are too high. When dust concentrations have reached unacceptable levels, an electrical charge zaps a dust-repelling wave across the solar panel's surface, sweeping off 90% of all dust in less than two minutes.
The best part: The technology isn't even that far off. It could be ready for commercialization as early as 2011. And once that happens, large-scale desert installations will become much more viable--without worries about cleaning costs and excessive water use, solar companies will have an easier time justifying massive desert projects.