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Self-Cleaning Solar Panel Technology, Courtesy of Mars

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.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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