Talk:Mars Solar Power

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With the Mars rovers performing vastly beyond NASA's expectation; the use of solar power on Mars is very possible.

I would like to point out the one major issues with solar power system on Mars. Both rovers have in the past had issues with martian dust covering their solar panels. As a fact a large storm has both rovers in critical power conservation mode. NASA is hoping the rovers can hold power long enough for the storm to pass, and they hope the panels are not so covers as to be useless.

With this having been said, any solar power system being designed for the Mars environment should have a method for cleaning the solar panels off, and have enough battery store capacity to sit in critical conservation mode for at least 2 months.

- Abigsky

With my previously mentioned solar power panel issue with dust collection on the Mars rovers; what would you propose as a self cleaning system for solar panels?

A couple fast ones that come to my mind are:

- Wipers with washer ability like your car windshield wipers
- Compressed air jets installed along the panel to simply blow the dust off
- A flip over and shake system to just invert and shake the panel it off. 

What other easy to engineer methods can you think of?

- Abigsky

OK, here is another idea for keeping the solar power panels clean.

For planets that have some atmosphere (like Mars) how about a high sped fan that can spin up enough to just blow the dust of the solar power panels.

You would need a high speed fan to be sure that you can spin up enough revolutions to generate the breeze necessary in a weak atmosphere .


I imagine there are a number of concepts worth investigation, including the ones above. In addition to wipers like windshield wipers, some form of a brush may also be useful. Having the arrays inclined to the vertical may also aid in reducing dust accumulation. Tracking arrays may be particularly amenable to the concept of inverting (or at least severely tilting) and then shaking. In the case of arrays at an inhabited outpost, there's of course also the option of sending out the astronauts with a broom.

When considering these concepts, it may also be worth thinking of a system fixed to the arrays versus a mobile system that cleans the arrays in sections (i.e., cleans a section, moves along, cleans another section, etc.). There's clearly a trade here between the complexity of a mobile system versus the mass of having to have many cleaning systems, with the trade of course working out different ways depending on the mass of the cleaning system, the total size of the arrays, etc.

In general, the question of dust and its impact on solar power generation is clearly quite important. Beyond the accumulation of dust on the arrays themselves, there is also the reduction of solar incidence as a result of dust suspended in the atmosphere itself. Some interesting things to dig into here.


I was just reading about the current storm that is causing a lot of concern about the two rovers. Winds sometimes over 70 MPH, Hmm.

Let's take into account that there may be times when solar power panels will loose much, if not all of their ability to produce power during storms. Why not use the storm winds to your advantage? Why not have a wind catch to drive a generator to product power during a storm?

It could actually be fairly small, a wind vain to detect the wind is at speeds high enough to use, then have a wind catch prop catch the wind, drive-shaft into a generator, have the output go to batteries. I think it may take some study to see how much power you could generate that way. But it sure would give you a way to have some power during the storms.

One catch I can think of is that an unprotected system like that could freeze up. So, you would either need to build it to pop out as needed, build in a heating system, or both. Of course, if there is a fairly constant wind, the motion of the wind catch prop would tend to help inhibit freezing to a small degree.

Another catch could be over speed. You would need to know at what speed your wind catch prop would over speed the generator, and design it to off angel to reduce the prop speed, or to pop back in at those speeds.

You could scale it up or down depending on what your need is. Small for a device like a rover, large scale for a base.

Do you think I'm off the mark? What do you think?

- Abigsky

Here is some news on solar power panel design:

Slash Dot carried a story this week that researchers at the University of Delaware have developed an improved solar power panel design that has achieved 42.8% efficiency. It accepts light form a wider range of incidence. It also is a denser design, approximately 50% smaller. The university is partnering with DuPont for engineering and manufacturing testing. The new design of solar panels may be available as early as 2010.

Good News from Mars, The rovers are back on the job a few weeks in a dust storm. The strategy of having the rovers shutdown into a battery preservation mode before the storm arrived worked perfectly.