Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Michael P. Hannigan

Second Advisor

Jana Milford

Third Advisor

Peter Hamlington

Fourth Advisor

Michael Brandemuehl

Fifth Advisor

Bruce King


Dust accumulation, or soiling, on solar energy harvesting systems can cause significant losses that reduce the power output of the system, increase pay-back time of the system, and reduce confidence in solar energy overall. Developing a method of estimating soiling losses could greatly improve estimates of solar energy system outputs, greatly improve operation and maintenance of solar systems, and improve siting of solar energy systems. This dissertation aims to develop a soiling model by collecting ambient soiling data as well as other environmental data and fitting a model to these data.

In general a process-level approach is taken to estimating soiling. First a comparison is made be- tween mass of deposited particulates and transmission loss. Transmission loss is the reduction in light that a solar system would see due to soiling, and mass accumulation represents the level of soiling in the system. This experiment is first conducted at two sites in the Front Range of Colorado and then expanded to three additional sites. Second mass accumulation is examined as a function of airborne particulate matter (PM) concentrations, airborne size distributions, and meteorological data. In depth analysis of this process step is done at the first two sites in Colorado, and a more general analysis is done at the three additional sites. This step is identified as less understood step, but with results still allowing for a general soiling model to be developed. Third these two process steps are combined, and spatial variability of these steps are examined. The three additional sites (an additional site in the Front Range of Colorado, a site in Albuquerque New Mexico, and a site in Cocoa Florida) represent a much more spatially and climatically diverse set of locations than the original two sites and provide a much broader sample space in which to develop the combined soiling model. Finally a few additional parameters, precipitation, micro-meteorology, and some sampling artifacts, are cursorily examined. This is to provide a broader context for these results and to help future researchers in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of this dissertation and the results presented within.