Debris-Induced Consequences on Turbulence and Vorticity in Solar Photovoltaic Module-Generated Array Wakes

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Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy

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Particle-laden flows in solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are inevitable, where wind-swept debris in open environments are carried by high winds and turbulence, coating panel surfaces or damaging structures. Particle deposition, or soiling, is a well-known issue for large-scale plants which rely on uninhibited solar rays for optimal production. But understanding the mechanisms leading to soiling requires a physical and fluid dynamics-centered focus, since turbulence dominates PV panel wakes and is also known to alter particle concentration and trajectories. This study presents an experimental campaign toward consequences of particle-laden flow between two model PV panels using time-resolved particle image velocimetry. The model array was subjected to varied particle volume fractions, including a tracer particle case and a water droplet case. Characterization of mean velocity, turbulence statistics, and mean kinetic energy within the single phase and, separately, particle phase flows showed modified features due to particle inertia. Images captured at a frequency of 1 kHz in the near wake of the upstream panel allow for a first experimental look at vorticity and convective velocity of vortex structures for single-phase and particle-phase flows which are crucial to debris transport and soiling in PV environments.


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