Well, the answer is, it depends…different sites have different needs.
Perhaps the best example of this is one of our clients who had 3 similar sized systems, in the same location – 100m apart. The middle system was impacted by bird fowling and required panel cleaning whilst the top and bottom systems were not affected.
Therefore when required, solar panel cleaning will maximise your system’s performance and ensure safety. Over time dirt and debris can accumulate on the surface of solar panels, reducing generation.
The first step is monitoring your array’s generation to understand if performance is down, and if solar panel cleaning is required. As they say you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Comparing estimated generation v actual generation can indicate if there might be a problem. If you notice a decline in generation, then this may indicate that your panels need cleaning or maintenance.
Solar Edge (1) comes with a power optimiser (little black box) for each pair of panels on commercial solar systems. This enables more granular system performance analysis because each pair of panels can be monitored. We often install these systems for their enhanced monitoring, improved safety, and additional long-term performance benefits. This in turn can reduce your maintenance costs by pin-pointing faults and resolving them more efficiently.
The next step would be to undertake a visual assessment either in person or by drone to confirm the condition of the panels. Problems to look out for may include:
- Bird droppings
- Dust and dirt
- Leaves and debris
- Dents on the solar modules.
- Water spots
If there is an issue with performance but a visual inspection does not show any clear and obvious signs then further maintenance checks may be required by a competent person.
If solar panel cleaning is required, then competent and experienced persons should be used. Consideration must be given to safety, water quality, temperature, and the use of appropriate tools:
There are a multitude of Health & Safety considerations when solar panel cleaning such as working at height, working with electricity, weather conditions etc(2). Our competent and experienced teams will assess and mitigate all risks to ensure your panels get cleaned safely.
- Water Quality and Temperature
Solar panels are always exposed to the elements and can vary in temperature. If the water used is not the correct temperature, then they may cause cracks and other issues to the panels which will reduce generation and invalidate warranties. Furthermore, If using hard water when cleaning solar panels then a mineral deposit can be left on the panels which may cause streaks & hotspots thus reducing output.
Solar panel cleaning requires the right tools for the job. When cleaning thousands of panels, we use a solar panel cleaning robot (like a remote-control car) with oscillating soft brushes (like a car wash). Soft brushes can be used for manual means of panel cleaning and in rare cases specialist detergent is required to remove stubborn deposits.
For more information on Solar panel cleaning and Solar panel maintenance in general please see Solar Energy UK’s rooftop O&M Best Practice Guidelines (3) which was co-authored by Ineco Energy.
If your panels need cleaning, Ineco can help…
Furthermore, if you would like help getting on the journey to cheaper, cleaner energy for your business please talk to us now.
Sources and links:
- Solar Edge – https://www.solaredge.com/uk
- HSE – https://www.hse.gov.uk/
- Solar Energy UK – https://solarenergyuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Solar-Energy-UK-Rooftop-OM-best-practice-Second-edition.pdf