Date of Award


Document Type



Santa Clara : Santa Clara University, 2016.


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Robert Marks


The goal of Project SPACE is to create an automated solar panel cleaner that will address the adverse impact of soiling on commercial photovoltaic cells. Specifically, we hoped to create a device that increases the maximum power output of a soiled panel by 10% (recovering the amount of power lost) while still costing under $500 and operating for up to 7.0 years. A successful design should operate without the use of water. This will help solar panel arrays achieve a production output closer to their maximum potential and save companies on costs associated energy generation.

The current apparatus utilizes a brush cleaning system that cleans on set cleaning cycles. The device uses the combination of a gear train (with 48 pitch Delrin gears) and a 12V DC motor to spin both a 5.00 foot long, 0.25 inch diameter vacuum brush shaft and drive two sets of two wheels. The power source for the drive train is a 12V deep cycle lead-acid battery.

Our light weight design eliminates water usage during cleaning and reduces the potential dangers stemming from manual labor. Our design’s retail price was estimated to be around $700 with a payback period of less than 3.5 years.

To date, we have created a device that improves the efficiency of soiled solar panels by 3.5% after two runs over the solar panel. We hope that our final design will continue to expand the growth of solar energy globally.