Why should solar panels be cleaned? How can you preserve their maximum power efficiency through cleaning?
Solar Panels are built to last 25 to 30 years and require little maintenance after installation. However, maintaining them clean is still necessary to maintain optimal power production.
In some regions of the US and as much as 50% in the Middle East, energy losses due to accumulated dust and dirt on solar panels can reach 7% annually. So how should dirt be removed from solar panels?
We will examine several aspects that affect solar panel cleaning and maintenance and the best practices for keeping panels clean. Solar panels can be cleaned using various techniques, including fully automated systems and manual washing.
Rainwater can wash away some of the dirt that builds up on solar panel surfaces over time, can also cause dust to gather at the bottom of the panels, and is insufficient to eliminate severe pollution.
5 Ways to Clean Solar Panels
Robotics technology enables businesses like Italy’s Washpanel to manufacture automatic and semi-automatic robots for cleaning solar panels.
It supplies portable semi-automatic robots for solar panels put on locations like carports, greenhouses, and shed roofs.
Additionally, it provides fixed roof robots for substantial installations in dusty settings that need regular cleaning.
When cleaning solar panels in the Middle East at night, Ecoppia uses solar-powered autonomous robots that use soft microfiber and airflow rather than water because high-pressure washing can harm the panels.
The robots instantly replenish their batteries in between tasks and clean their onboard solar panels.
Brushes and sponges without soap
Solar care businesses like the US-based Bland Company and Premier Solar Cleaning have found that using deionized water with a rolling or vehicle-mounted brush may successfully clean solar panels in place of soap.
The soap produces a residue that shadows panels but also attracts dirt.
A Solar Panel Wash from lubricant producer Polywater helps water lift off grime without leaving a film behind.
To remove filth, SunSystem Technology mixes diluted vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.
Homeowners can manually clean their solar panels with a garden hose and a soft sponge without cleaning solutions.
Researchers at NASA-funded projects in the US and Scotland’s Heriot-Watt University have created methods to vibrate solar panels to shake surface dust loose without water.
To create vertical vibrations, the Heriot-Watt approach fastens a direct-current (DC) motor to the back of the solar panel.
The nanoparticle-based technology is highly clear and repels dust, allowing it to be removed with water without affecting the panel’s efficacy. It is designed for solar panels.
Manual labor in cleaning
The old-fashioned method of manually cleaning solar panels works well. Although inventive and adequate, technologies like robots, waterless vibration, or unique coatings can also be highly costly and ineffective in some circumstances.
It is particularly true for modest installations that are either residential or commercial in scope, as well as for unique buildings and facilities.
When cleaning solar panels, a few tools will be very helpful in getting the job done correctly.
On the one hand, the soil is removed from the panel using a variety of specialized brushes that revolve.
We might also use any straightforward cleaning tool, such as the ones used on car windscreens.
On the other hand, employing water-pressure tools would enable us to finish the job more quickly while conserving a significant amount of water.
How Geography Impacts the Cleaning of Solar Panels?
How to clean solar panels and how frequently they must be cleaned to maintain efficiency depend on where the panels are placed.
They need to be cleaned generally at least once or twice a year. But in other places, more regular cleaning might be advantageous.
Unclean regions: Solar panels will accumulate much atmospheric dirt and oil in polluted places close to factories, highways, or airports.
Dark places: Installations near many trees are more likely to have more leaves fall onto the panels, preventing solar absorption. Trees also draw birds, which may lead to an accumulation of droppings that cover the solar panel and cause surface damage from the acidity, decreasing efficiency.
Deserts: Sand accumulations on panels are tremendous in places with dry, dusty climates, like the Middle East and the US Southwest, where they can scrape the surface and impede light. Wildfire ash from places like California or Australia can soon fall on panels in big clumps.
The angle of the rooftop: Additionally, how frequently solar panels need to be cleaned depends on the angle of the rooftop where they are situated. Rainwater runoff is more effective in cleaning panels positioned at an angle than flat surfaces, where water can pool and leave a residue.
Large commercial solar sites need cleaning more frequently than residential ones because the more energy output is impeded by filthy panels, the larger the installation.
Robotic solutions are better suited for industrial systems.
When Should You Clean Your Solar Panels?
When the system’s efficiency drop, that is the clearest sign that the solar panels require cleaning.
Since cold air keeps pollutants closer to the ground than warmer air during the summer, pollution is often higher during the winter.
Therefore, spring is the perfect season for cleaning solar panels because summertime temperatures make them unbearably hot to handle.
It is preferable to clean them in the morning or early evening when it is cooler outside.
Companies are experimenting with techniques to monitor the quality of solar panels and remove them using cutting-edge technology.
Researchers in Spain gave a patent for a method that connects a sensor to the glass surface of a panel and uses an LED light to monitor how much dirt has accumulated.
The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is also working on a method to track the quantity of power that solar panels generate each day to identify when soiling has started to reduce output.
The cloud-based technology from Ecoppia uses sensors and machine learning to keep an eye on solar systems, gather meteorological information, and move between trackers to clean panels on an ideal timetable.