An observation about campus solar panels leads Engineering senior to build panel cleaning machine

In 2017, six years after moving to Berekuso, Ashesi started work to move portions of the university’s power needs to solar. By the time Issahaku Walaman-i ’22 enrolled at Ashesi as an Engineering student, the university had installed some 720 solar panels across roofs on campus.

During his time on campus, Issahaku noticed that dust accumulated quickly on the university’s solar panels during dry seasons. He grew curious and started looking into how dust affected the panels’ efficiency. He discovered that dust reduced the amount of light the panels could receive, which affected the amount of electricity generated.

“I also learned that many organisations relied on manual labour to clean their solar panels in Ghana,” says Issahaku. “However, this approach raised safety concerns and was also somewhat expensive.”

To mitigate these concerns, he dedicated his senior year project to building a prototype for a device that could be deployed to clean solar panels automatically. With most parts designed and manufactured on campus, Issahaku built a machine that could move across the surface of solar panels and, with the help of a pump-powered water nozzle, could clean dust and wash any residue.

“The tests I did revealed average cleaning effectiveness of about 82.6% for 20-watt solar panels,” added Issahaku. “The prototype can be scaled to fit larger solar panels, and could be used suitability for residential, industrial and even commercial purposes.”

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