Solar Power is seen as the panacea for all power deficit problems around the world. However, like all equipment or machinery, solar panels also require regular cleaning. According to the World Academy of Science, Engineering & Technology, “a drop in the efficiency of a solar PV panel is not desired. One of the contributing factors in the drop of efficiency in solar PV panels is the accumulated dust on the solar panel. In practice, dust must be removed from the surface of solar PV panels in order to ensure highest performance.”
That is why; Solar Panel Cleaning is increasingly seen as a necessity, for various reasons.
- Direction/Orientation: While most solar panels are rooftop and placed horizontally at an angle, some are vertically inclined to capture maximum sunshine. The panels have photovoltaic cell arrays shielded by a glass covering. Depending on direction of wind, the panels can attract a lot of dust, grime, soot, pollen, fallen leaves and bird droppings. Over time these can stick to the panel and harden. This can cause a huge drop in the exposure to sunlight and hence losses. Solar Panel owners who have never cleaned their panels have reported losses varying from 20% to a whopping 50% over time.
- Rain Water or Snow is not Enough to Clean the Panels: A common assumption is that while the dust and pollen accumulate in summer and spring months, they are washed clean by rain or melting snow in rainy and winter months. While this may be true of loose and soft dust, it’s not effective for soot or bird droppings. Sometimes, rain water can deposit mud and soil on its own. All this can harden with time and stay for weeks or months.
- Location Specific Reasons: The problem can get worse depending on how close the panels are to traffic signals, industrial or manufacturing centers, greenery and foliage, etc. This requires that panels are cleaned regularly, else, once a quarter is the norm.
- Professional Cleaning: Professional cleaning companies use the right kind of cleaning techniques, methods and processes so as not damage the panels. This helps them clean more panels in a short period of time which reduces downtime of your panels. Professional cleaning companies have been able to achieve significant efficiency levels depending on whether it’s an agricultural site, industrial site, commercial site or residential site.
- Warranty Clauses may Require it: Recognizing the fact that cleaning has a direct effect on the efficiency; some solar panel manufacturers have made solar panel cleaning one of their warranty clauses. In case of issues in performance or efficiency of the panels, manufacturers would like to see proof of regular cleaning being undertaken by cleaning professionals. Else, the warranty may not valid. It’s also good to read the data sheets of these panels at the time of purchase so that one is aware of the life span being promised.
Organizations like the Solar Energy Power Association and The National Renewable Energy Laboratory claim that efficiency losses vary from 20% to 25% for dirty solar panels compared to cleaner ones. With solar energy being known to reduce one’s power bills, having dirty panels is not something any intelligent property owner can afford to have.