Energy Academy
An international centre of excellence and a gateway to Heriot-Watt's energy research and training activities

PV characterisation capabilities/expertise at Heriot-Watt

PV characterisation capabilities/expertise at Heriot-Watt

"Solar PV is the fastest growing renewable technology and a core part of our advisory business underpinning many of our jobs in Scotland and around the world. We therefore strongly support the Fledge funded project which Mehreen Gul will be undertaking with our input and support, and which will investigate and test solar PV technology performance drivers such as ambient temperature, soiling/dusting and solar irradiance levels in order to better predict energy yield and degradation rates." Alan Mortimer, Director of Innovation, Wood Group

Heriot-Watt University has a wealth of experimental, analytical and numerical expertise in the area of solar panel characterisation. We can also test solar PV in a range of harsh environments both in the UK in Edinburgh and in the warm, in Dubai which allows us to investigate the effects of environment temperature, soiling/dusting, solar irradiance levels on energy yield and degradation rates.

Solar energy harvesting via solar photovoltaics (PV) has a substantial role to fill the increasing future energy demand gap given the transition towards electric or zero-emission cars nationally and internationally. In the UK alone, by the middle of the century, when it is assumed almost all cars will be electric, that extra peak demand could be up to 18GW. With the rapid increase in the use of PV power worldwide, the optimal management and analysis of expected performance of PV sites becomes increasingly important. Innovations and research into understanding the characteristics of different PV panels (materials characterisation) and the effects of soiling (dust deposition) on their performance is essential to the industry.

Soiling is the accumulation of dust on solar panels that causes a decrease in the PV system’s effic ienc y. Sea salt, pollen, and particulate matter originating from air pollution, agricultural activity, construction and other anthropogenic and natural sources can and does often accumulate on solar panels, reducing efficiency until it is removed either by heavy rain or washing.
At Heriot-Watt, Dr Mehreen Gul and Tadhg O'Donovan are developing a management and maintenance regime to mitigate against the degradation of PV performance due to soiling. Different PV panels will be characterised to understand the relationship between the underlying materials characteristics and device performance and the effects of soiling on their performance will be determined using on-site measurements on arrays established in Edinburgh and Dubai. To see whether different types of panel are more resistant than others, monocrystalline, polycrystalline and amorphous silicon PV panels will be examined and  a mullti-dimensional Newton-Raphson method for the characterisation of a solar panel using a five-parameter approach, developed by Dr Faisal Ghani at Heriot-Watt will be used to interrogate causes of photovoltaic degradation. T 
Tests will also be performed under extreme soiling conditions which will be artificially deposited on the panels to investigate the influence of dust storms, a common occurrence in Middle Eastern climates. A typical meteorological year will be used to understand the frequency of dust storms, rain events and the extent and frequency of cleaning required.


This project has been made possible through a new round of Fledge Grant funding provided by Heriot-Watt's Energy Academy to stimulate collaborative research and development across our University and with industry.

 " This is a great opportunity to establish our experimental research in both Edinburgh and Dubai to optimise solar panel performance/yield in very different environments”. Tadhg O'Donovan, Associate Professor Heriot-Watt University

Heriot-Watt is working with Wood plc, a leading independent multi-disciplinary engineering consultancy specialising in renewable energy. The Wood Group has advised on solar developments in the UK, France, Belgium, Italy, Bulgaria, Lithuania, USA, South Africa, Philippines, Djibouti, Pakistan, India, Spain, China, Saudi Arabia and Greece, supporting a wide-range of customers including developers, owners, private investors, financial institutions and multi-lateral development banks. Wood has advised on over 10GW of solar PV projects on over 900 PV plants globally, providing assessments of large-scale energy projects at all stages including feasibility, design and development, construction management, operational management and due diligence.

If you're a solar PV developer and want to test the performance of your solar panels in extreme environments or all year-round subnshine, please get in touch. You can contact Tadhg O'Donovan at T.S.O' or Mehreen at

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