By Krish Reddy
DUBAI, UAE, 21 December 2022: Ladybird Nursery Al Barsha, in Dubai, has installed solar photovoltaic panels to harvest energy from the sun. The initiative by the school at its facility – a LEED Gold building – is in line with its aim of not only being a sustainable building but also a cost-effective one.
Ladybird undertook the solarisation in its school in partnership with Al Shirawi Solar. With the objective of saving an estimated 212,620 kWh, the project involved installing 206 panels, each with the capacity of generating 545 watts of power, leading to an avoided 99,913 Kg of CO2 each year. A key goal at the time of installation was to ensure longevity of the solar system, with a target of 20 years. Once fully implemented, even the minimum amount of consumption using the lowest tariff (see Figure 3: DEWA tariff structure) would save approximately AED 50,000 a year, according to Ladybird.
However, implementing solar panels is not only about installing and receiving benefits, according to Ladybird; there are several other factors to be considered. First is the high cost of installation, ranging from AED 4,000 to 6,000 for only 1kW of rooftop electricity production. The cost doesn’t end there, as the cost of maintenance should be considered, according to Ladybird. This is a recurring payment. It comes with an element of risk for workers on the rooftop – in the form of the possibility of electrical shocks and the extreme heat in Dubai – making maintenance payments expensive.
Additional risks for solar panel installations occur, post-installation, such as hot spots. When energy is not successfully transferred to the inverter, it would lead to an increase in temperature, posing a risk to the safety of those within the building. One of the main causes of hot spots is faulty maintenance, such as allowing for accumulation of dust.
Faulty maintenance not only increases the risk of hot spots, it also reduces the efficiency of the solar panels, as the photovoltaic cells can be blocked. Dust alone can reduce the output of a photovoltaic cell by up to 30%, highlighting why regular cleaning is essential for the use of solar panels.
An innovative product exists to combat the problem of dust – a robotic cleaning system (see Figure 4). While the cost of the innovation is significant, it would be especially successful at locations where a large number of solar panels are aligned, as the cost would be less than hiring maintenance workers. The robotic cleaning system effectively cleans 99% of dust and dirt on the solar panel. However, where solar panels are unable to be placed in alignment due to the structure of the building, such as Ladybird, the process of installing a robotic cleaning machine would be a self-defeating one, as a worker would be required to move it between the solar panels.
According to Ladybird, the thoroughness of the solar project during the planning stage helped it overcome layout-related challenges. The eventual roof layout was such that inverters and the solar panels were placed in a manner where they would be most efficient.
Another important aspect of the project was the consideration given to safety. Case-in point was the use of rubber protections to cover the sharp edges on and around the solar panels. If rubber protections would feature in Safety 101, the installation of a switch for protecting from the electricity connection between the grid and the electricity in the building, was a vital one. The switch effectively disconnects and blocks the chance of conflicts from faults in electricity.
The writer is a Year 12 student at Dubai International Academy.