More Output, Less Maintenance to Temper Water CrisesBy Cas Biekmann | Thu, 05/20/2021 - 11:38
Q: What is the main challenge that ZNShine Solar solves in the Mexican photovoltaic market?
A: There are two facts that pose a problem for general society but which also have a specific impact on solar that needs to be addressed. Mexico is in the midst of a water crisis. It is also a very dusty country. In fact, it has one of the most significant soiling factors globally. It is No. 1 in water scarcity in Latin America and the most at risk for a water crisis on the continent, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI). These are relevant issues for PV solar because water is needed to clean dust from the panels. By not regularly cleaning solar panels, which is a problem for distributed generation (DG) more than in utility-scale systems, power output is lost and long-term damage occurs due to soiling. ZNShine's value proposition is based on double-glass graphene modules. Our target is the DG market that requires cleaning options that use less water. If you imagine a choice between having drinking water or cleaning a solar array, the decision is rather simple. Knowing that around 5 liters are needed to clean one panel, Mexico’s solar projects have no other option than to reduce water consumption in the decades to come. A 0.5MW system will consume 1.4 million liters during a 25-year life span.
Soiling also remains a big issue that requires attention because Mexico has one of the strongest dust intensities in Latin America, similar to countries like China and India. Academic studies show that soiling decreases output between 2 and 50 percent. A joint preliminary study with Alejandro Jiménez at Solar Fotovoltaica México identified that Mexico’s DG sector is indeed at high risk of output losses because soiling is affecting shading. Utility-scale installers are aware of the importance of cleaning installations monthly or bi-monthly but DG installations are often only cleaned every six months 28 percent of the time. In 24percent of cases, they are not cleaned at all as owners rely on rainfall to do the cleaning. This is risky due to the high variability of rainfall, which has dramatically decreased in recent months.
It is time for the industry to understand the negative impact of soiling. Apart from better cleaning practices, one way to reduce the soiling factor is through the use of appropriate technology.
Q: How does the company’s technology help solve these issues?
A: ZNShine designs modules that decrease the soiling factor, saving large amounts of water, a solution specifically tailored to the DG sector’s problems. Most studies focus on soiling as an uncontrollable variable but the panel's surface has great potential to reduce soiling losses in and of itself. ZNShine specializes in industry-leading modules that avoid soiling output power losses and decrease risk over the life span of the module: our patented graphene-layer glass.
Graphene is a carbon nano-compound with excellent dust-repellent and light transmittance properties. We integrate graphene into the outer layer of the glass panel, decreasing the soiling factor of our modules in two ways. Firstly, by creating micro valleys that harbor air and expel dust particles using simple mechanical pressure. Secondly, the graphene layer creates a hydrophilic surface that generates flat droplets above the glass, a unique property for solar panels. The droplets become so flat that they scoop away dust particles, significantly enhancing the mechanical cleaning action that rain can provide. Since the Mexican DG sector relies so much on rainfall, this is a crucial benefit.
But the panel’s properties to expel and prevent the sticking of dust particles might be even more important. Conventional modules hold 14 gr/m2 of dust. In contrast, ZNShine’s modules only gather half, about 6 gr/m2. In this regard, ZNShine offers unique modules that help solve both water scarcity by decreasing the water needed for cleaning by 40 percent and preventing issues stemming from Mexico’s unusually high soiling factor, all while greatly increasing the module’s power output over the years. So-called soft and hard shading become much less of an issue and the installation’s life span can increase to at least 30 years. The improved load performance is of great value for coastal regions in Mexico and the Caribbean suffering from hurricane risks.
Moreover, graphene coating also improves performance against environments with salt and mist-based issues. The combination of double glass with graphene coating makes the ZNShine module more robust and perfect for Mexican weather conditions while remaining low cost. Thin double-glass technology also decreases the weight of a panel up to 12 percent, an important factor for DG installations.
Q: With this value proposition in mind, what are ZNShine Solar’s near-term objectives?
A: As one of the leading producers of double-glass modules globally, our strategy for 2021 is to offer double glass at the same cost as single-glass modules. In India, a country with a similar high-dust and high-water scarcity context, ZNShine is a leading provider for the DG and utility-scale sectors. As a Tier 1 and PVEL Top Performer, our goal is to achieve similar results in Mexico. The Mexican DG market is expected to grow from 1.02GW in 2019 to 12.44GW in 12 years, according to PRODESEN 2020. Imagine that from this new DG-based future power, 5 percent is wasted due to the soiling factor related to bad cleaning. 517MW would be wasted. ZNShine can save 457MW of this loss.
To achieve our goals, ZNShine will focus on exposure and sales. Next to the work in cultivating a solid base of distributors and then focusing on individual sales, the company has had a surprisingly good first response to its offer from the Solar Leasing sector. Traditionally, this is a somewhat difficult segment to enter. For companies that lease their system to clients, a stronger guarantee in the functioning of the panels and significantly lower maintenance costs already have proven attractive.
ZNShine Solar is a Tier 1 solar panel manufacturer. The company is shifting its focus away from solely utility-scale renewable energy while maintaining its sustainable approach through initiatives that include water-saving technology for DG installations.