With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine causing oil prices to skyrocket, combined with increasing concerns over the climate crisis, the global investment community is acknowledging the need to become less dependent on fossil fuels.
One alternative energy source that’s gaining momentum is solar power. A report from the International Energy Agency shows that power generated from renewable solar power systems grew by 23% globally from 2019 to 2020. And while only 3% of all electricity generated in the U.S. 2020 came from solar power, that figure is expected to jump to 20% by 2050.
A big challenge with solar energy is photovoltaic soiling, which happens when dust, pollen, or other particles accumulate and settle on a solar panel’s surface. It may not sound like a huge problem, but this accumulated debris can seriously impact a panel’s efficacy.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that PV soiling can lead to an energy loss of 7% in parts of the U.S. In the Middle East, that loss can be as high as 50%. And while many solar power plants use water to wash their panels, this cleaning method can be wasteful, as it requires roughly 10 billion gallons per year.
To solve this problem, scientists at MIT have created a system to clean solar panels using static electricity. Through the process, an electrode passed over a solar panel gives an electrical charge to the dust particles at the panel’s surface. Another electrode at the panel’s glass cover sends its electric charge to the panel’s surface. This causes the dust to instantly bounce off the panel without wasting any limited resources or damaging the panel.
“By using this technique, we can recover up to 95 percent of a solar panel’s power output,” Sreedath Panat, an MIT doctoral student and the study’s lead author, told The Daily Beast.
Those seeking targeted exposure to the solar power energy may want to consider the Invesco Solar ETF (NYSEArca: TAN). TAN invests at least 90% of its assets in the MAC Global Solar Energy Index, which is comprised of companies in the solar energy industry, according to Invesco. The fund and index are both rebalanced quarterly.
Since it’s a hyper-focused fund, TAN doesn’t offer tremendous diversification — there are only about 45 holdings in the fund, with three or four names accounting for a third of its assets.
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