Solar Panel Cleaning
01/27/2017
Tagged In: O&M, Solar Farms

Solar panel cleaning is a vital component of any solar operation and maintenance (O&M) program. Dirty panels or covered solar panels (for example: snow) produce less electricity than clean, unobstructed panels.

In some areas, without adequate solar panel cleaning, photovoltaic (PV) performance can degrade as much as 25% according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. This can elongate your solar array’s payback time by three to five years!

Why Clean Solar Panels?

To maintain optimal energy production, solar arrays require periodic solar panel cleanings especially in those areas of that are prone to high airborne particulates such as pollen, exhaust, dust, industrial processes, coastal salts, organic debris, and snow. Solar panel cleaning is important to ensure maximum energy production from a solar array. Some solar panel manufacturers are now even making panel cleaning a condition of their warranty. Having covered panels means a decreased amount of sunlight reaches the solar cells in the solar panels, thereby reducing the amount of energy generated.

When do you Clean Solar Panels?

O&M companies with years of experience in solar maintenance will layout a preventative maintenance plan that includes a detailed cleaning schedule for the solar array. In addition to the predetermined, preventative maintenance schedule, solar O&M companies have two methods to determine if and when the panels need to be cleaned. They will visually inspect the solar panels on a periodic basic and/or use a monitoring system. Most commercial O&M companies will do both.

What Happens During a Solar Project Inspection?

During a physical inspection of a solar project, panel cleanliness is not the only thing that technicians are reviewing. Other components of the array will also be inspected by the skilled technician including, but not limited to:

  • Mounting
  • Cabling
  • Inverters and Connecting Boxes
  • Shading and Vegetation Growth
  • Water Drainage
  • Fencing
  • Security of the Area
  • Wildlife or Pest Activity

A physical visual inspection can often detect potential hazards or smaller problems that could turn into major headaches down the road. Identifying and making repairs or adjustments before they interfere with energy production is key to a successful O&M plan, and is also good for operations to be aware of future cleaning needs.

There are several methods to clean solar panels, all of which are relatively easy; however, the sheer volume of panels in a commercial solar array adds a level of effort, which can be beyond some company’s limits, which is why utility scale solar power plants typically enlist the help of an O&M company. Remember, dirty panels mean less output. Contact us today to talk through a customized plan that could fit your environmental needs.