Recently, extensive R&D has been conducted, both by industry and academia, to significantly raise the conversion efficiency of commercial photovoltaic (PV) modules. The installation of PV systems aimed at optimizing solar energy yield is primarily dictated by its geographic location and installation design to maximize solar exposure. However, even when these characteristics have been addressed appropriately, there are other factors that adversely affect the performance of PV systems, namely the temperature-induced voltage decrease leading to a PV power loss, and the dust accumulation (soiling). The latter is the lesser acknowledged factor that significantly influences the performance of PV installations especially in the Middle East region. In this paper we report on the investigation of the structural and physical properties of the desert-dust particles in the State of Qatar. The dust particles were collected directly from the PV panels installed in desert environment and characterized by different techniques, including scanning electron, optical and atomic force microscopies, X-ray diffraction, energy-dispersive, UV-Vis, micro-Raman and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. The vibrating sample magnetometry analyses were also conducted to study the magnetic properties of the dust particles. The influence of the dust accumulation on the PV panel performance was also presented and discussed.
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