Dust, Solar PV and Solar Radiation: Investigating Relationships between Multiple Datasets

Atmospheric Environment 71:7-14

A student is being sought for an innovative project relating PV systems, radiation sensors and dust events in rural NSW. Dust storms cause considerable economic and physical damage at their site of origin through the loss of top soil, loss of soil nutrients, and damage to vegetation/stock by burying or sand-blasting. Downwind, dust reduces air quality, impacts transport and essential service networks along with impacting human health. Dust events have also been observed to have impacts on the instantaneous power production of PV systems, with their power output dropping sharply as airborne dust obscures the sun.  The effects of dust can also be observed for days or weeks after an event via deposition of dust on PV array surfaces, resulting in reduced PV array performance long after the dust event has ended.

This project will explore the synergies between the data collected by three entities in Mildura, Vic.  First, the DustWatch instrumented network which measures aerosol concentrations across dryland NSW/Victoria.  Secondly, PV system power output has been collected from several installations in the Mildura area.    Third, the Bureau of Meteorology has a meteorological observation station at Mildura airport, which includes professional grade solar radiation measurement equipment.  The chosen student will merge these three data sources in order better understand 1) the impact of dust on PV system power output, 2) the possibility of using solar PV power output to ‘detect’ or ’track’ dust events and 3) if reduction in system output can be used as a surrogate for dust concentration. 

The researchers are looking for a student with experience using computing coding languages, with a strong preference for experience in either Matlab or R.  The student will be utilising the nickengerer R package to model and analyse PV data, as well as using this language to process and analyse data from multiple sources.

For more information about this potential research topic or activity, or to discuss any related research area, please contact the supervisors:   Nicholas Engerer & Craig Strong

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