R. Dr. Francisco Sá Carneiro
Zona Industrial de Bouro, Letra C
4740-010 Esposende, Portugal
Cement Dust Removal and Mitigation
Cement Factories and Solar Plants – a match made in heaven but… The production of cement is intensive on electricity consumption and area occupied. These factors make a compelling case for the installation of PV plants next to cement factories. The high electricity consumption makes sure that all the output of the PV plant is consumed, and space is readily available for the installation of the PV plant, either on the rooftops or the land around the factory.
But there is a “small” detail to have in consideration when planning a PV plant in a cement factory: cement dust! The production of cement, being a very fine powder, creates a lot of dust emissions throughout the process. Even though all the efforts of containing those emissions with filtration systems, the dust is so fine that it able to escape through the tinniest gaps.
Naturally, this dust ends up settling everywhere and is not so critical for most surfaces except for PV modules. When this dust mixes with dew overnight, a cementation process begins that cures the layer of cement dust on top of the modules. The porous nature of the glass and antireflective coating promote the adhesion of this layer making it almost impossible to remove without damaging the modules.
The phenomena has caught several asset owners of guard by not accounting for this on the design and O&M planning stage. Other companies simply refuse to bid to these projects as they afraid of the influence of the cement dust in the management of the plant. The extreme cases of cement dust contamination can represent more than 70% of power output losses. We are aware of the plants where the modules would not produce enough energy to start the inverters (100% losses).
Nowadays with the right tools, design, and maintenance plan, it is completely feasible to have PV plants on cement factories. The use of an anti-soiling coating with the anti-adherent properties, together with shorter cleaning cycles will keep the plant with minimum losses without having to resort to more labor-intensive remediation solutions once per year.
Cement Dust Removal and Mitigation
Several hypotheses have been studied by us to remove the contaminant, as manual cleaning with water only has been tried by our clients and partners without success. The use of scrapers, high pressure machines or harsh chemicals will damage the modules and definitely void their warranty of the modules. Therefore these are not appropriate solutions. After several months of R&D, we developed a combined solution using two products: a removal agent, to remove the existing cured cement dust, and an antistatic and anti-adherent coating for preventive protection the panels.
Cement Removal Agent (CRA) is a concentrated biodegradable agent for removing cement dust, stone dust, hard water stains, rust and other alkaline contaminants that become encrusted on the glass surface of solar modules.
It is an innovative, biodegradable product, fully tested by German laboratory TÜV Sud assuring that it will not damage the AR coating, silicone, or the aluminum frame. The product reacts chemically with the contaminants and emulsifies the particles so they can be rinsed off easily. Easily removes the contaminants that would otherwise be almost impossible to remove without damaging the modules - no more scraping!
Antistatic Solar Armor (ASA) is a concentrated product developed to be applied with a robot or a brush on tractor, during the normal cleaning operations. Its antistatic properties reduce the adhesion of the cement dust to the glass, keeping the solar glass cleaner between cleanings, and increasing the efficiency of the next cleaning. This environmentally friendly product is free of phosphate or chlorine, and has a neutral pH, so it does not attack the aluminum structure, silicone or anti-reflective coating of the solar panel.
ASA is fully tested and certified by the international laboratory TÜV Sud and has letters of conformity from 12 of the Top 15 manufacturers of the PV modules.
A perfect combination
First, to remove the contaminant from the surface of the solar modules, and make it suitable for the application of the coating, the Cement Removal Agent (CRA) is the solution. The product is diluted in water at the correct dilution ration (depending on the harshness of the problem), and then sprayed directly on all the panels. The emulsification process is immediate, and the panels should then be brushed thoroughly and finally rinsed to remove the dust and any excess product.
It should be noted that CRA is a remediation product and should only be used as such. To avoid the need of a recurrent use, the second step below is crucial.
After all the cement dust is removed from the photovoltaic modules, the panels must be protected with an antistatic coating, like the Antistatic Solar Armor (ASA), to reduce the adhesion of cement dust and make subsequent cleanings easier. The coating will prevent the particles from adhering directly on the glass, thus making them easy to remove during normal cleaning operations.
In conclusion, by combining a remediation product with a specialized coating, we were able to effectively clean up cement buildup on the panels and prevent its recurrence. The antistatic coating will decrease the rate of soiling, leading to gains in power production and a noticeable difference in dust accumulation.
The dozens of PV plants that have been cleaned and protected by our partners has confirmed that using a specific product for remediation of contaminants together with a coating is a highly effective method for cleaning and preventing the recurrence of cement dust buildup on solar panels. This will improve the efficiency and lifespan of solar panels, making them a viable option for renewable energy production on cement factories.
This is a major breakthrough in the industry and we are proud to be at the forefront of innovative solutions for solar panel maintenance.
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